November 16, 2022— Today, Mountain Association and Kentuckians For The Commonwealth released scorecards assessing Kentucky’s 24 rural electric cooperatives on their governance practices and types of programs offered to co-op member-owners. In Kentucky, these co-op utilities provide power to 1.5 million people in 117 counties.
The scorecards are intended to support Kentuckians to engage with their local utility and speed the transition to affordable and clean energy. By rating the performance of cooperatives in relevant areas, this tool can provide member-owners and co-op management a roadmap for reform.
As a whole, Kentucky’s co-ops averaged just 34.1 out of 100 possible points, with 20.6 out of a possible 50 for services and 13.5 out of 50 points. Jackson Energy ranked highest overall with a score of 48, while Meade County Electric earned just 16 points out of 100.
Locally, Grayson Rural Electric earned an overall score of 36 out of 100 possible points, including 15 out of 50 for governance and 21 out of 50 for member services. Grayson RECC received high marks for allowing medical exemptions for disconnections. Key areas for improvement include fixed fees, energy efficiency program availability and election procedures.
Established by the Rural Electrification Act of 1936, co-ops have brought electricity to rural communities that private corporations did not find profitable to serve. The unique, member-owned structure of co-ops as nonprofit utilities means that they are intended to be governed by their members and aligned with principles outlined by the National Rural Electric Cooperative.
“Until learning about this project, I did not know that as member-owners our community actually has a say in how our electric co-op operates. This project has empowered us to do more about our electric usage than just turning off the lights,” stated Kathy Curtis, Prioress of a Benedictine monastic community in Floyd County served by Big Sandy Rural Electric. “People in my area are suffering from high electric bills and catastrophic flooding. We urgently need our co-ops to partner with communities to deliver widespread, affordable, and clean energy solutions.”
The scorecards evaluate each of Kentucky’s 24 cooperatives in two broad categories: member services and governance. Each co-op can earn up to 50 points for offering programs like inclusive financing for home weatherization, community solar options, fair compensation for energy generated by rooftop solar, broadband internet, the ability to opt-out of right-of-way spraying, and the ability to protect medically vulnerable households from disconnections due to non-payment. In the governance category, co-ops can earn up to 50 points for making board meetings and documents open and accessible, providing clear and accessible ways to communicate with the board, posting bylaws and IRS 990 forms on their website, and having accessible and democratic board election procedures.
“With skyrocketing electric bills and the climate crisis at our doors, these scorecards give Kentuckians the tools they need to engage their co-ops to make the changes they deserve,” said Chris Woolery, an energy specialist at the Mountain Association. “In the past few months, the federal government has allocated unprecedented funding to help co-ops pay for the changes that will move us to a clean energy future. Now is the time for us to help our co-ops take advantage of this moment to make our homes and communities healthier and more resilient, create good local jobs, and lower our bills.”
The Southeast Regional Electric Cooperative Scorecard is hosted on the website EnergyDemocracyYall.org, where visitors can find all the specifics about their co-ops’ score.
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About the Mountain Association:
The Mountain Association invests in people and places in Eastern Kentucky to advance a just transition to a new economy that is more diverse, sustainable, equitable and resilient. The Lending team offers loans to existing and startup businesses and organizations. We are a Community Development Financial Institution and a non-profit, so we can offer greater flexibility and lend to those who may not otherwise qualify. Our Business Support program connects business owners and nonprofit leaders to consultants who can help them succeed. Our Energy experts help businesses, nonprofits, public agencies and homeowners find much-needed energy savings through utility bill analysis, on-site energy efficiency and solar assessments, financing and grant application support. The Mountain Association also engages in research, communications and advocacy for policy and narrative change, and works with partners on a variety of projects to demonstrate what’s possible in Eastern Kentucky. For more information, visit www.mtassociation.org.
About this project: The scorecard release is part of a joint effort between Appalachian Voices, Shareable, Partnership for Southern Equity, Energy Alabama, One Voice, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth and Mountain Association via the Advancing Equity and Opportunity Collaborative. Scorecards were released on November 16, 2022 for rural electric co-ops in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.