About Electric Cooperatives

An electric cooperative is a non-profit corporation that is jointly owned by its members. Unlike investor-owned electric utilities which are designed to make a profit for their shareholders, Ozarks Electric is a non-profit, cooperative based business. It refunds any money collected above the cost of operations to its members in the form of “capital credits”. These credits are refunds assigned annually to your account and refunded as approved by the board of directors when financial conditions permit.

We are governed by a seven-member board of directors. Directors are members, not employees, elected by you to seven year terms. Each year, we mail to all of our members a financial report and notice of our annual business meeting held in April. In addition, we mail periodic publications with your bill to keep you informed as to the workings of the Cooperative and communicate items of safety and general interest.

Electric Cooperative Quick Facts

In the United States today, more than 900 electric distribution and generation and transmission cooperatives:

  • Serve more than 42 million people in 48 states.
  • Deliver electricity to more than 21 million businesses, industries, homes, schools, churches, farms, irrigation systems, seasonal residences, and other establishments.
  • Serve 12 percent of the nation's population.
  • Have assets worth $140 billion.
  • Own and maintain 2.5 million miles, or 42 percent, of the nation’s electric distribution lines, covering three-quarters of the nation's landmass.
  • Deliver approximately 10 percent of the total kilowatt-hours sold each year.
  • Generate 5 percent of the total electricity produced annually.
  • Employ nearly 70,000 workers.
  • Pay more than $1.4 billion in state and local taxes.

The Seven Cooperative Principles

Originally drawn up by Charles Howarth, one of 28 weavers and other artisans who founded the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers in Rochdale, England, on December 21, 1844, these principles governing cooperative operations were introduced into the United States in 1874 by the National Grange, and formally written down by the International Cooperative Alliance in 1937 (last updated in 1995).

Open and Voluntary Membership
Membership in a cooperative is open to all persons who can reasonably use its services and stand willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, regardless of race, religion, gender or economic circumstances.

Democratic Member Control
Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting policies and making decisions. Elected representatives (directors/trustees) are elected from among the membership and are accountable to the membership. In primary cooperatives, members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote); cooperatives at other levels are organized in a democratic manner.

Members' Economic Participation
Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their cooperative. At least part of that capital remains the common property of the cooperative. Members allocate surpluses for any or all of the following purposes: developing the cooperative; setting up reserves; benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the cooperative; and supporting other activities approved by the membership.

Autonomy and Independence
Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If they enter into agreements with other organizations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control as well as their unique identity.

Education, Training and Information
Education and training for members, elected representatives (directors/trustees), CEOs, and employees help them effectively contribute to the development of their cooperatives. Communications about the nature and benefits of cooperatives, particularly with the general public and opinion leaders, helps boost cooperative understanding.

Cooperation Among Cooperatives
By working together through local, national, regional, and international structures, cooperatives improve services, bolster local economies, and deal more effectively with social and community needs.

Concern For Community
Cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies supported by the membership.

These principles are underpinned by six ideals—the so-called cooperative values of Self-Help, Self-Responsibility, Democracy, Equality, Equity, and Solidarity. In addition, the International Cooperative Alliance lists cooperative “ethical values” of Honesty, Openness, Social Responsibility, and Caring for Others.

Be sure to check out this great video below - The Electric Cooperative Story - about the formation of electric cooperatives, courtesy of our friends at Our Energy, Our Future.