Not-for-profit cooperatives are owned and operated by the very members they serve, which ensures that co-ops are always focused on member needs and local priorities. Member-ownership also guarantees every member has a voice in co-op business, which is governed by an elected board of directors who are also member-owners. The board makes decisions to accommodate the best interests of the membership and local directors have a personal investment in assuring the cooperative is meeting the needs of the community. Electric co-ops across America were created over 75 years ago to improve quality of life by providing safe, reliable and affordable electricity to members – not to generate money for shareholders. At its best, a cooperative does not differentiate between itself and members – they are one and the same.
We like to think that co-ops power communities and empower members by improving their quality of life.
In Iowa, electric cooperatives power the lives of 650,000 people throughout all 99 counties every day. Across America, more than 100 million people are members of 47,000 cooperatives, enabling consumers to secure a wide array of goods and services such as health care, insurance, housing, food, heating fuel, hardware, credit unions, child care and utility services.
Quick Facts about Electric Co-ops
- Electric cooperatives are owned by the members they serve, making co-ops truly democratic organizations with local governance.
- Electric cooperatives are guided by a board of elected directors who must be member-owners of the co-op.
- Iowa's electric co-ops maintain enough power lines to wrap around the equator 2.5 times.
- Electric co-ops maintain 42% of the nation's electric distribution lines, covering 75% of America's land mass.
- While the cost of most things (cars, houses eggs, milk, stamps, gas ,etc.) has increased twentyfold or more over the past 75 years, electricity has remained very affordable. The average cost per kilowatt-hour has only doubled since the 1930s.
- The average co-op household pays about $4 a day for safe, reliable electricity. That's cheaper than a drink at Starbucks!
- Not-for-profit electric cooperatives were formed in the 1930's and 40's as a way for rural citizens to gain access to electricity. Before rural electric cooperatives were formed, only 10% of rural citizens in America had electricity.
- While most rural electric co-ops were formed in the 1930's and 40's, Iowa lays claim to the oldest rural electric cooperative in the country. Farmers Light and Power Company (now Farmers Electric in Kalona) was formed during the fall of 1916 as a result of local farmers meeting in 1909 to talk about bringing electricity to the area after President Theodore Roosevelt appointed a national commission to examine disparities between rural and city life.