Cooperative utilities meet basic electric, telecommunications, and water infrastructure needs of their consumer member-owners.
Rural electric cooperatives (RECs) are consumer-owned utilities that were established to provide reliable and affordable electricity by purchasing electric power at wholesale and delivering it directly to the consumer. These distribution cooperatives are primarily located in rural areas where the return on expensive infrastructure investment was not high enough to attract the investor-owned utilities (IOUs).
To assure an adequate supply of the cost-effective, reliable power that is vital to their survival, distribution cooperatives formed generation and transmission (G&T) cooperatives to pool their purchasing power for wholesale electricity. The G&T cooperatives provide wholesale power to their member-owners either by purchasing and delivering power from public- or investor-owned power plants, or by generating electricity themselves.
Rural telecommunications cooperatives were established to provide quality telecommunications service at a reasonable cost. They are typically located in rural areas where there is a strong cooperative tradition, and where the return on the infrastructure investment is not high enough to attract large telecommunications providers.
Water cooperatives are consumer-owned utilities formed to provide safe, reliable and sustainable water service at a reasonable cost.
They provide drinking, fire protection and landscaping irrigation water. In addition, many of them provide wastewater services. Water cooperatives are most often found in small suburban and rural areas that are located too far from municipal water companies to receive service.