Minnesota is home to 50 electric cooperatives. These utilities provide reliable electric service to 35 percent of Minnesotans and cover approximately 85 percent of the state’s geographic area.

Cooperatives are owned by the people they serve. Members maintain democratic control, which means they elect fellow members to represent them on the cooperative’s board of directors.

Electric cooperatives are distinct from their investor-owned and municipal counterparts, and that difference can be traced to the beginning of cooperatives. Areas now served by cooperatives were once not served at all. In the 1930s, large power companies could not make a profit from serving rural America, where there were fewer customers, so rural communities started electric cooperatives.

Committed to serving the last mile

An estimated 42 million people in 47 states are members of electric cooperatives. Co-ops generate 5% of all U.S. energy; however, cooperatives serve 56% of the country’s landmass and own 42% of the country’s distribution power lines. Such expansive infrastructure is necessary to serve their largely rural and suburban membership.

Co-ops serve an average of 8 consumers per mile of electric line and collect revenue of $19,000 per mile of line. All other utilities average 32 customers and collect $79,000 per mile of line.

In Minnesota, cooperatives serve many of the counties with the highest unemployment and poverty levels. Cooperative customers are still mainly homes, farms and small businesses just as they were 75 years ago.

Local energy and technology providers

Electric cooperatives are built by and belong to the communities they serve. They are led by members from the community and are uniquely suited to meet local needs. They are shaped by the specific needs of the communities they serve.

This local, member-driven structure is one reason why cooperatives enjoy the highest consumer-satisfaction scores within the electric industry, according to J.D. Power and Associates and the American Consumer Satisfaction Index.

Electric cooperatives are guided by seven principles:

  1. Voluntary and open membership
  2. Democratic member control
  3. Members’ economic participation
  4. Autonomy and independence
  5. Education training and information
  6. Cooperation among cooperatives
  7. Concern for community

December 8, 2020

Download a PDF of Great River Energy’s cooperative difference statement