By Kent Singer, CREA Executive Director
It’s annual meeting season for Colorado’s electric cooperatives. Starting earlier this spring and continuing through the summer, every one of Colorado’s 22 distribution co-ops and one generation and transmission co-op hold annual meetings of their membership. These meetings give co-op member-owners a chance to hear about the latest co-op news, say hello and maybe share a meal with friends and neighbors, and, yes, take home a door prize.
As of the middle of April, I attended six annual meetings this year and by the end of the summer I will have attended about 10 more. I try to get to as many annual meetings as possible each year because they are great opportunities to find out what’s on the minds of not only the co-op boards and management, but also the folks at the end of the line. Ultimately, everything the Colorado Rural Electric Association does is geared toward helping our members keep electricity affordable and reliable for their member-owners— that is, for you.
These co-op get-togethers come in all shapes and sizes, from festival-like extravaganzas to buttoned-up business meetings. The number of folks in attendance ranges from less than 100 to more than 1,000. Some co-op annual meetings are so large that they use the local high school auditorium or a nearby convention center to host the attendees; others use the co-op maintenance facility or garage. Sometimes a full meal is served; sometimes it’s a beverage and snack.
No matter how different each co-op annual meeting may be, there is one constant: you. You get to attend and let your co-op board and management know what’s on your mind. The CEO of the co-op and the entire board of directors are there to hear from you. After all, in the cooperative business model, you own the electric company.
I wish I was an owner of my electric company, but as an Xcel Energy customer in Denver I’m just a ratepayer. Part of my monthly bill goes to out-of-state investors. But not so for you; your nonprofit co-op provides service at cost.
At the annual meetings I attended this year, the issues facing co-ops vary depending on the local economy and business climate. In some cases, sales of electricity are lower than anticipated and cost-cutting measures are being implemented. In others, the co-op is adding customers and building new facilities to serve the additional electric load. Regardless of the type of challenges, each coop’s approach to addressing these situations is remarkably similar: Communicate with your members to find out what they want and then work like crazy to achieve those objectives.
Electric co-ops use a multitude of tools to communicate with their member-owners (including Colorado Country Life), but one of the best tools is the annual meeting. There aren’t too many companies where customers get to talk one-on-one with the top management or board of directors, but that’s exactly what happens with your electric co-op. Just as you speak directly to a co-op employee when you have a service question, you can also speak directly to the CEO or the board directors of the co-op at the annual meeting.
One of the seven cooperative principles — democratic owner control — is also exemplified by the co-op annual meeting. You, the owner of the co-op, have a chance to vote for the board of directors and have a direct say in how the co-op is operated. Colorado’s electric co-ops take these principles seriously and live them every day in their approach to business decisions.
From taking on the complexities of providing broadband service to deploying automated meters to integrating new renewable power supplies, Colorado’s electric co-ops are constantly working to serve you, the owners of the electric company. We’ve done if for over 75 years and plan to do it for many more with your continuing support.
If your co-op annual meeting is coming up, I hope you take the time to attend and learn about your electricity provider. Who knows, you might also win a door prize!