The future of electric cooperatives

Our purpose: to power communities and empower members

Posted on Apr 21 2017 in Orange County REMC


I recently came across an article on the website of our national organization, NRECA. It discussed the purpose of the cooperative, what it means and why it’s important today.  I would like to share some of that article, with plans to use this as the basis of my discussion coming up at our 80th annual meeting on June 2 at Paoli High School.

Through the cooperative business model, people were able to come together, and improve the quality of their lives. That life-changing opportunity provided a generation of Americans with growth, economic security and unmatched political strength. Eighty years later, electric cooperative members continue to look to their local co-ops to help them meet their needs and aspirations in equally challenging times.

At a time when many Americans have lost faith and trust in so many institutions, 42 million people, working hand-in-hand with their local electric cooperative, have the chance to bring new opportunity and prosperity to their communities.

Electric cooperative leaders are facilitators and honest brokers of information for their members. Cooperative leaders are catalysts for positive change, building loyalty and trust among a new generation of members and mobilizing grassroots political strength. I commit to you that those of us here at Orange County REMC will continue to dedicate ourselves to the fundamentals of the electric cooperative promise.

The statement of purpose above is a definitive statement about the difference electric cooperatives strive to make in the world — yes, literally the world. Orange County REMC ensures this purpose drives how we engage you, our members; how we allocate resources; how we hire and develop employees; how we plan for the future; and how we judge success.

In the development of the statement of purpose, NRECA studied many successful co-ops around the country. The common thread in all those successful co-ops was their mission of improving the quality of life in their communities. These cooperatives tackled everything from job creation and housing quality to infrastructure, using the power of the electric cooperative network to serve the greater good of their members and community. While each of these cooperatives focuses intently on doing a first-class job providing electricity, they also devote considerable effort to engaging their members on local needs that improve the quality of life in their communities.

Orange County REMC wants to ensure we are living “The Purpose,” so that we have the support of engaged and loyal cooperative members, which is the source of our success. To be successful in the future, and to protect the electric cooperative program and the members we serve, we must continually strive to get better and to build trust. As our membership shifts to consumers who are less familiar with their cooperative, engagement becomes a real challenge. Member engagement arises from building trust and being relevant to you. This brings me to the “Why” of the statement of purpose. I feel incumbent upon the cooperative and the opportunity at hand is to revitalize the spirit of the cooperative model and empower our members. Member involvement in the cooperative is critical.

So, as you decide whether or not you should attend your electric cooperative’s annual meeting, I hope you will come spend a Friday evening with the employees and directors of the cooperative. Let us share with you how we can work together to affect change for the better. Let us share with you how we are involved in the community and the good things we continue to strive to do for our membership.

MATTHEW C. DEATON is general manager/CEO of Orange County REMC.