You’re a Coastal Electric Cooperative member! What does that mean?


A group poses with the thumbs up signIf you’re reading this, you most likely pay your electric bill to Coastal Electric Cooperative. Nothing revolutionary about that—you use electricity, you receive a bill and you pay it.

In most cases that would make you a customer, right? Just a consumer of a product or service. But did you know, if you pay your electric bill to a cooperative, you’re a member and owner?

What does that mean? "Member" sounds like you accidentally joined a club, and "owner" may make you nervous that you have more responsibility than you intended.

Simply put, a cooperative is a not-for-profit business voluntarily owned and con- trolled by the people who use its services. When you sign up for service with Coastal Electric, you become a member and owner.

Being a cooperative member and owner has its benefits, such as a say in how your cooperative operates (one example is voting for your board of directors) and money back when finances are strong (known as capital credits).

Cooperatives around the world operate according to the same set of core principles and values. These principles are a key reason why America’s electric cooperatives operate differently from other electric utilities, putting the needs of members first. We were formed to serve our members—not generate profits for outside shareholders—and it’s still why we exist today.

Membership in a cooperative is open to all people who can reasonably use its services and stand willing to accept the responsibilities of membership—regardless of race, religion, gender or economic circumstances.

So, if you pay your electric bill to Coastal Electric, welcome to the club! You are a co-op member.

And because you invest in your cooperative every time you pay your electric bill, congratulations are in order because you’re an owner, too!

To learn more about your electric co-op, explore the content under the About Us tab.

The Seven Cooperative Principles

1. Open & Voluntary Membership

Membership in a cooperative is open to all persons who can reasonably use its services and stand willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, regardless of race, religion, gender, or economic circumstances.

2. Democratic Member Control

Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting policies and making decisions. Representatives (directors) are elected from among the membership and are accountable to the membership.

3. Members’ Economic Participation

Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their cooperative. At least part of that capital remains the common property of the cooperative.

4. Autonomy & Independence

Cooperatives are autonomous self-help organizations controlled by their members. If they enter into agreements with other organizations or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control, as well as their unique identity.

5. Education, Training & Information

Education and training for members, elected representatives (directors), CEOs, and employees help them effectively contribute to the development of their cooperative. Communications about the nature and benefits of cooperatives, particularly with the general public and opinion leaders, help boost cooperative understanding.

6. Cooperation Among Cooperatives

By working together through local, national, regional, and international structures, cooperatives improve services, bolster local economies, and deal more effectively with social and community needs.

7. Concern for Community

Cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies supported by the membership.

7 Cooperative Principles Infographic (PDF)