CURE’s Rural Electric Cooperative Score Card is a tool to help Rural Electric Cooperative (REC) members-owners, co-op management and boards, and state regulators and lawmakers gauge democratic governance and transparency in Minnesota’s RECs.
RECs provide electric service to 1 in 3 Minnesotans (1.7 million people) and power 85% of Minnesota’s geography. RECs are more than just electric utilities. When first formed, these institutions were the pinnacle of energy democracy in action and key in transforming rural economies. Today, RECs are at a crossroads—
- Many co-ops have failed to engage their members as more than just electric consumers/customers. 55% of co-op member-owners don’t even know that they are member-owners. (2015-16NationalSurveyCooperativeDifference.pdf)
- The formerly fossil fuel-heavy energy landscape across the country is changing due to global market forces and uneconomic operating costs. https://www.sustainability.com/thinking/benchmarking-air-emissions-100-largest-us-power-producers/#Emissions
- Rural communities are ideally situated to own—not just host—the clean energy future. (https://www.curemn.org/100-clean-energy-mn/)
- The Empowering Rural America (New ERA) program provides historic funding of over $10 billion to invest in a rural clean energy renaissance. (https://www.rd.usda.gov/inflation-reduction-act)
- There is an urgent need for action to address the climate crisis.
RECs are uniquely positioned to lead a clean energy revolution in rural Minnesota—if they choose. They can be the leaders of locally owned and locally produced wind and solar power, embrace emerging energy storage technology, and facilitate/encourage co-op member-owner electric vehicle ownership. RECs can lead in the face of climate change, help build thriving new economies and rural communities, and along the way, make our electric sector more secure and resilient. Importantly, RECs can do all this while keeping electricity rates affordable.
Most importantly, RECs must reengage with their members. Without member-owner participation in co-op decision-making, RECs are just like any other electric utility but without the guardrails of oversight. Members are the most important resource of co-ops. They provide ingenuity and heart; the reason for the co-op’s existence. Members are what make it possible for RECs to lead this energy transition. In order to reclaim their legacy as democratic institutions, RECs must re-center their day-to-day practices to follow the Cooperative Principles closely. They can start this process by making some basic information available to their members on their websites, and online information is what members want.
The information included in the score card was collected from rural electric co-op websites during the period of Feb 6-21, 2023, and was accurate as of that date. The use of names, likenesses, trademarks, and wordmarks included in the Score Card and corresponding CURE Energy Democracy webpages are intended solely for purposes of non-commercial expression to further the public interest through criticism, commentary, and news reporting.
CURE MN seeks to achieve climate justice and a transition to a decentralized, efficient, clean energy economy across rural communities by fostering democracy in electric cooperatives and every facet of rural life. Focused primarily on the Midwest, CURE MN plays a pivotal role in fostering the national rural electric co-op reform and democratization movement with a comprehensive focus on community organizing, electoral politics, and policy development.
117 South 1st Street
Montevideo, MN 56265