REC Celebrates National Cooperative Month
October is a time of celebration – warm autumn colors, pumpkin spice lattes, hay rides at the pumpkin patch, and Halloween. It’s also National Cooperative Month. During this time, Rappahannock Electric Cooperative (REC) recognizes and highlights the principles that guide cooperatives across the nation and how they serve your communities.
The biggest value of a cooperative is the people who make it – you, the members. “Rappahannock Electric Cooperative is owned by the people we serve,” said Kris Sieber, director of member services for REC's Fredericksburg office. “That is why those who receive electric service from us are called members, not customers. Without you, our members, there would be no REC.”
Cooperatives have seven core principles. Membership to a cooperative is open and voluntary to all who stand willing to accept responsibilities of membership. Members have democratic control over their cooperative. As memberowners, you have the opportunity to actively participate in setting policies and making decisions. Each year at the Annual Business Meeting, members have the opportunity for their voice to be heard by voting on candidates for the Board of Directors.
Likewise, you have economic participation. As members, your monthly electric bill is more than just another bill. A portion of the bill is an equity contribution, which are used to finance capital projects and increase the Cooperative’s equity. Each year when financial conditions allow, the Cooperative’s board can decide to return, or “retire,” to each member a portion of the capital that has been contributed during their membership. “REC is not-for-profit. When you pay your monthly electric bill, you are investing in REC, allowing us to maintain and improve power structures, which allows us to continue to provide the most efficient and reliable service to you possible,” added Sieber. “All revenue past those expenses is returned directly to you in the form of capital credits.”
REC is an autonomous, independent organization. REC is owned by the members it serves, not by investors or a larger entity. As such, it is important to have strong connections with other cooperatives. REC works together with local, regional, national, and international cooperatives to help boost our local communities and effectively handle community needs. In fact, Cooperative Living is efficiently produced through the efforts of twelve local cooperatives. "Cooperation among cooperatives" is most noticeable following damaging storms when out-of-state and other local electric cooperatives provide mutual aid during the restoration process.
Alongside democratic control and capital credits, as memberowners, you are provided with professional help and continued education. “REC employees attend continuous training to stay up to date with current technologies and practices,” said Oliver Price, director of member services at REC’s office in Culpeper. “Likewise, we help develop our members into the consumers they want to be by sharing energy-efficiency guidance, money saving tips, and by offering programs such as SurgeAssist, replacement water heaters, and much more.”
REC provides electric service to parts of 22 counties in Virginia. A value that REC is passionate about is concern for our communities. We work for the sustainable development of our communities. Whether simply connecting with you over our social media platforms or meeting you personally at a community event, we work hard to be a part of the communities that we serve, and that many of us call home.
In addition to volunteering and actively supporting community events, we give back through LEARN Grants and The Power of Change through Operation Round Up. Through programs such as these, we are giving directly to those who work to make their local communities even better.
“These principles are a key reason that REC, along with all of America’s electric cooperatives, operate differently from other electric utilities – because we put our members first,” Price said.