Minnesota is the birthplace of our modern cooperative movement and co-ops are a fundamental part of our history and culture. Co-ops are an example of rural people coming together to solve community problems. Looking to the future, the co-op movement and co-op business model is key to transforming how rural and urban communities and economies work!
Cooperatives are based on the idea of bringing democratic ideals into business. A cooperative is a group of people coming together to meet shared economic, social, and cultural needs through a jointly owned and democratically run enterprise. Unlike a corporation where one or two executives make all the decisions, in a co-op, member-owners elect leadership to carry out their wishes in the daily operations of the co-op.
Rural electric cooperatives were created in the 1930s out of the New Deal. They were an innovative, but logical way to electrify the countryside. Communities received federal funding and farmers and their neighbors literally put up the power lines of their new energy system. Rural Electric Cooperatives at their best are what Energy Democracy in action looks like.
Sadly, 80 years later, rural electric cooperatives are not living up to their cooperative ideals. A corporate way of thinking that minimizes member-owner control has shrunk the power of the people and highly paid managers and boards hoard big profits. This is happening in rural electric co-ops across the county, Minnesota included.
The Minnesota Local Energy Project is a co-op advocate. We love our co-ops. We want our co-ops to be the best they can be—responsive, transparent, and people-powered. We want rural electric co-ops to be Energy Democracy in action once again. Rural electric co-ops can transform how our energy system works. Rural electric co-ops can champion distributed, locally owned and locally produced wind and solar power. They can lead in the face of climate change and build thriving rural economies and communities.
Find out how you can make YOUR Rural Electric Co-op Energy Democracy in action!