You and other folks who receive electricity from us are the owners. Of course, being an owner doesn’t mean you can drive to a substation and take home a transformer or borrow a spool of wire. Those assets are owned collectively by everyone who has signed up for electric service. A portion of the electric bill you pay each month, in fact, goes into building distribution infrastructure—poles, wires, and substations—that bring you a steady supply of power. Cooperatives follow a unique consumer-focused business model led by a set of seven principles.
The Third Cooperative Principle, “Members’ Economic Participation,” requires all of us to chip in a bit on our monthly bill to keep Horry Electric in good shape.
Your cooperative conducts business locally. Investments we make in infrastructure don’t profit someone in an area far away—benefits stay right here in our community. Paying your monthly bill does more than build lines, buy equipment, and purchase wholesale electricity. You also pay the salaries of our hard-working employees, who live right here in the community. They, in turn, buy goods at local businesses, spreading income around and boosting our local economy.
Here’s another membership perk: you get money back. We’re not-for-profit, so any funds left over after bills have been paid, infrastructure built, and an emergency fund established, goes into a capital account for each co-op member. Then, when your board of trustees determines the co-op is in good financial shape, this capital is returned to you, either as a check or bill credit. How much money you get back depends on how much electricity you used.
Capital credit refunds are to you what dividends are to stockholders at for-profit companies. Only we don’t aim to make a profit. Our goal is to provide you with electricity at a price that is as close to cost as possible. That way, more of your money stays in your pocket—up front. In short, you are receiving a vital resource, electricity, from a business owned and operated by you, your friends, and neighbors. Working together, we provide you with the highest level of service we can while striving to keep your electric bills affordable.
And that’s the cooperative difference.
NOTE: This is the third in a series of articles about The Cooperative Difference, which highlights the seven guiding principles of cooperatively owned and operated businesses.