Electric cooperatives are utilities owned by the customers, or members, that they serve, and which operate by a democratic model of governance. Electric co-ops were organized by rural people in the 1930s and 1940s who banded together to bring a critical resource to their communities and improve their quality of life. Today, these co-ops can offer broadband internet access, solar energy, energy efficiency and other unique programs to improve quality of life for their members.
But how do electric cooperatives in Tennessee measure up to this ideal?
In the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Report Card, we graded our electric cooperatives’ performance on democratic governance, programs for members, and how they handle member money.
Special thanks to PVEC Member Voices and CEMC Members for Change for contributing to the research and development of this report card!
1. Most electric cooperatives in our state have a long way to go on democratic governance, finances and the range of programs they offer to member-owners. Out of 100 total points in our grading system, no co-op scored more than 65.
2. Out of the 23 electric co-ops that we scored, less than half allow their member-owners to attend board meetings (a standard practice for most publicly owned utilities). Only 4 of these co-ops even offer board member contact information on their websites.
3. Only 3 of the electric cooperatives that we scored offer a community solar program for their members, and only one offers an inclusive energy efficiency program for member owners.
4. More than half of Tennessee’s electric cooperatives offer or are developing broadband internet programs.
5. Most of Tennessee’s electric cooperatives have a fixed fee, or basic service charge, that is more than $15 per month – significantly higher than recommended fixed charges determined by groups like the Regulatory Assistance Project.