If you buy electricity from a local electric cooperative, you are not just a consumer, but a member of that co-op. Membership is one of the seven core co-op principles of a cooperative with the third principle being “members’ economic participation.”
What this means is that co-op consumers contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their co-op. Some of the capital is the common property of the co-op’s physical plant, and surpluses can be used to improve that plant (infrastructure). Surpluses, when it is economically feasible, may also be returned to consumer-members in proportion to their transactions with the co-op.
Find all seven principles at crea.coop/our-mission/7-co-op-principles.