August 21, 2016 at 6:44 pm #8536
Cooperatives were created over 75 years ago to improve the quality of life for rural Americans by delivering and enabling the electrification revolution. How are cooperatives striving to improve the quality of life and enhance economics in our service territories for our members today? Economic development is one of the many ways today’s cooperative can continue the mission to improve quality of life and spur economic prosperity.
Today, some coops limit their efforts to hiring professionals to interact with city, county, regional and state economic development entities to encourage businesses to open new operations or expand existing operations within the cooperative footprint. Most distribution cooperatives have another vein of economic development: Key Account customer service representatives who work to ensure existing commercial and industrial accounts enjoy the optimal energy value through proper rate structure application, energy efficiency reviews, and more.
I believe our cooperative’s investments in economic development should also focus on the Cooperative’s economic well-being. This vein of economic development looks inside the cooperative and is where today’s effective Directors can, and should contribute to our distribution entity’s financial stability. Most cooperatives today only provide energy in kWh increments to our members in exchange for financial compensation. But NRECA members in 2015 passed a resolution calling for development of new consumer-centric business models. And Peter Kind’s 2013 Disruptive Challenges report from the Edison Institute provides an analysis of why alternate business models will have to be part of our future.
So, what services beyond direct sale of electricity does your cooperative provide to your members? What services do the members desire that we are not providing?
What are cooperatives providing today?
- Home Utility Warrantee Services (such as Lumbee River EMC)
- Water heater (such as Bedford REC)
- Water heater & solar PV panel (such as Steele-Wasca Coop)
- Solar PV Panel
- Broadband, Media, Phone
- Tree Trimming Service (such as REA Energy Coop)
- Natural Gas and Propane Service (such as The Energy Cooperative)
When a new service is deployed at a cooperative, some level of analysis and planning is expended during the review process. Some of these efforts produce artifacts that may be useful to the next cooperative pursuing this same service analysis. If these efforts could be shared among CLN members, the task of service analysis would be cheaper, faster, and more complete for the next cooperative. And nothing replaces talking with someone who’s already walked the analysis and deployment processes to hear those valuable lessons learned.
I hope coop Directors, through this CLN forum, will exchange ideas regarding these emerging revenue generating services. This exchange could greatly expedite our ability to consider, evaluate and provide new services our members’ desire.
December 15, 2016 at 6:53 pm #8542
This is an excellent discussion on how electric co-op policy makers can emphasize our traditional role of service and commitment to our communities as we provide more innovative programs and services for members. Directors can view “economic development” in a much broader, modern interpretation that becomes “community development.” Community solar, broadband, and effiency applictions are examples. Also, expanded websites, collaboration with local governments and corporations, and working with educational educational institutions and nonprofit organizations can expand the co-op’s role, visibility, trust and improve member satisfaction – all very positive outcomes.
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