Not only are co-ops locally owned and controlled—by you, our members—they are locally run to serve your needs.
While many South Carolina electric consumers pay power bills to companies that answer to far-away stockholders who demand a healthy profit every quarter, local members call the shots at electric co-ops like ours. Co-ops aren’t under pressure to keep rates high enough to generate big profits. Instead, co-ops try to keep your bill as low as possible while providing high-quality service. Co-ops invest money in excess of operating costs back into the business locally or return the excess (known as margins) to you in the form of capital credits.
And unlike the boards of directors of investor-owned utilities who keep an eye on generating profits for people living far away, your co-op’s trustees (fellow members, by the way) have only one thing in mind: keeping lights on safely, reliably, and keeping costs affordable in our local community. That’s why you elected them. And that’s what’s so great about co-ops. If you don’t like the direction your co-op is taking, you have the power to change the leadership through democratic means.
You may know the history of the electric cooperative movement, how seven decades ago rural residents banded together to bring the conveniences of electricity to their communities when investor-owned utilities would not extend service. The associations they formed, on the same democratic principles as this great nation, are as strong and relevant today as they were back then.
But co-ops are not just products of a proud past. These days, Americans from all walks of life have come to recognize the co-op approach—members working together to achieve price and service benefits—can work for other needs just as effectively as it delivered affordable power to rural Americans.
The Seven Cooperative Principles upon which electric co-ops were founded—voluntary and open membership, democratic member control, and members’ economic participation, among others—are as meaningful today as they were when electric co-ops began in the 1930s.
The employees, management team and trustees of Horry Electric share the same concerns as you, our members. We are accessible. You can give us a call or send us an e-mail and know someone here is listening. And at our annual meeting in April, you can visit with us in person.
In these days of economic turmoil, folks who receive electricity from co-ops are lucky. As locally owned and operated businesses, electric co-ops understand the people they serve. Trustees and employees at your co-op share the same values and have the same pride of place as you do because it is our community, too. We act like neighbors because we are neighbors.
That’s the cooperative difference.
NOTE: This is the first in a series of articles about The Cooperative Difference, which highlights the seven guiding principles of cooperatively owned and operated businesses.