cooperative difference in Missouri
This month people
all across our nation will celebrate the achievements brought on by
the formation of electric cooperatives. Cooperative Month truly is
worth celebrating because cooperatives have made a profound impact
on the lives of their members.
This summer I attended
many electric cooperative annual meetings. There’s
no better place to witness the democracy that is so much a part of the cooperative
At the annual meetings
I witnessed first-hand the cooperative difference. Most corporations
do their business in closed board rooms open only to investors wealthy
enough to own the most shares. Their decisions are made with one thought
in mind: increasing profits for fellow investors.
In stark contrast,
the cooperative business meetings I attended were held in the open,
with a formal invitation sent to each member through this publication.
Managers and board members were on hand to greet the membership,
inform them of important business matters and answer all of their questions.
this year’s annual meetings reports were given that updated
the members in attendance on new power plants to be built to meet
growing demand for electricity. The board presidents and managers
talked about efforts to improve the environment by reducing emissions
at power plants and the vast amount of money spent by cooperatives
to make those improvements.
Members learned about
how low rainfall affected the availability of low-cost hydropower electric
co-ops get from lakes in the region and how that would affect their
rates. They learned that electric co-ops, like other businesses, have
been impacted by the high cost of gas and diesel fuel.
I heard discussed will directly impact you in future years. Some
cooperatives are raising rates, some for the first time in many, many
years. The members I visited with said no one ever likes rate increases.
But they realize their co-op will only increase their rates enough
to ensure reliability because they are non-profit.
Some members told
me they appreciated their co-op telling them the reasons why rates
are on the rise — increased fuel costs, environmental improvements
and the need for new power plants, to name a few — and they
understood the need for the increase.
They were also pleased
to hear at their annual meetings that Missouri is better positioned
in regard to rates than most of the rest of the country and in
the future will still have some of the lowest rates while maintaining
the quality of service members expect.
What really impresses
me about the annual meeting is how those representatives on the board
gain their seats. The entire membership has input into the nominations
process through various methods unique to each co-op.
Then the members
themselves vote to select who will represent their interests on the
I have been fortunate
to have talked with some of the early pioneers of rural electrification
over the years who told me they felt the cooperative business model
was the best way to electrify the countryside. They knew that if the
board was elected in a democratic process it would ensure accountability
to the member/owners of the business.
What could be more
American than that?
Hart is executive vice president of the Association
of Missouri Electric Cooperatives.
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