The co-op way looks out for members

Baldwin EMC Board of Trustees

Many Americans do business with a cooperative every day. They exist in almost every industry from energy to news reporting to healthcare. Co-ops are a huge part of the economy here in the United States and serve some 120 million members, or 4 in 10 Americans. In Alabama, rural electric co-ops alone serve 1.2 million people, or about a quarter of the state’s population.

While cooperatives may resemble most companies in some ways, they are very different in others. One of the most important differences is that co-ops are not driven by profit.  For-profit companies aim to return a profit to their shareholders. After all, these shareholders have invested their money in the business. Things work differently at a co-op. When Baldwin EMC takes in more money than it costs to provide electricity to our members, the remaining funds are invested in maintaining the system of poles, power lines and other equipment needed to distribute electricity, or held in reserve for emergencies, such as hurricanes. These funds, called capital credits, are carefully documented and returned to our members as the financial condition of the co-op allows.

Baldwin EMC’s vision is to be a member focused, efficient and community involved cooperative. We aim to improve the quality of life for those we serve, not use them to make lofty profits.  Electric co-ops are part of this tradition, one that has a long history going back to 1752 when Ben Franklin started America’s first cooperative in Philadelphia.

A cooperative, however, is still going to see its operating costs rise when the price of doing business goes up. We work everyday to achieve operating efficiencies as we face these cost increases. Co-op employees work with you, our members, to make sure you have the help you need to use energy wisely. We also offer a wide array of services to make sure your energy needs are being met, including heat pump and tankless water heater rebates, Prepay Power, energy-efficient light bulbs, Green Power

Choice, and online energy audits among others.

But there comes a point when your co-op has to pass on the increased cost of providing electricity. At those times, you can trust that the decision was based on keeping the business financially strong on behalf of all members. We are not driven by the profit motive to make money for outside investors.

Recently, you received a personal letter from Baldwin EMC announcing the first rate adjustment we have had to make in seven years. We have delayed this increase as long as possible, and we continually look for ways to operate more efficiently and keep expenses down. You see, we are members too, and a rate adjustment affects our bills just like every other member.

The co-op way of doing business is an important way to keep costs manageable. Baldwin EMC does not profit from higher rates because we are a not-for-profit member-owned organization. We are in the business for the public good rather than for the financial benefit of an individual owner or stockholders.

We are not profit-driven and we don’t have to impress Wall Street every quarter. Rather, we are service-driven and operate at cost. You can bank on the cooperative difference.

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