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Electric Co-op Members: Make your voice heard in upcoming elections

Published February 28, 2024

If you live in a rural area, odds are that your electricity is provided by a local electric cooperative (co-op). Co-ops are owned by the same community members they serve. Unlike major investor-owned utilities like Xcel or Minnesota Power, electric co-ops are often not typically regulated by the Public Utilities Commission (PUC). Co-ops are typically governed by a local board of directors. Each member of a co-op may cast a vote for a director. This democratic process sets electric cooperatives apart from investor-owned utilities (which are owned by  shareholders). Many co-ops have elections coming up, and your vote can help shape the future of energy policy for your community. 

According to the Minnesota Rural Electric Association (MREA), the association representing rural electric co-ops in the state, co-ops supply over 20 percent of Minnesota’s electricity. Major well-known cooperatives include Connexus Energy, serving the north metro; Dakota Electric, serving the southern portion of Dakota County; and East Central Energy, serving communities on the border with Wisconsin. In total, there are 50 electricity cooperatives throughout the state serving nearly two million Minnesotans. These co-ops typically do not generate their own electricity; instead, they purchase it from larger utilities or independent power producers and distribute it to the communities they serve. 

As previously mentioned, co-op members are responsible for electing a Board of Directors. Directors are tasked with representing members’ interests when setting policies, approving budgets, or making decisions about rates or other cooperative objectives. Directors serve as trustees of their communities and members; feedback on matters such as setting rates, financial oversight, or setting goals for the cooperative could inform their decision-making processes. 

If you are a co-op member, we encourage you to take advantage of the unique opportunity to influence the operations and policies of your electricity provider. The length of tenure for a director varies from co-op to co-op; check your provider’s website to see if there is an election coming up, or consider if you might be the right person to represent your community’s energy concerns. 

Many co-ops conduct board elections at or around annual meetings, which are often held in the spring. A co-op’s annual meeting is open to all members. At the meetings, co-ops also share information about their energy systems, budgets, challenges and opportunities facing the utility – and often provide a pancake breakfast and great door prizes. 

Not sure who your utility provider is? Check out the state’s interactive map to see who provides your electricity service.

Author: James Birr

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