Fewer than half of Alabama’s electric cooperatives allow their member-owners to attend board meetings, half do not make their governing documents available online, and none offer community solar programs, according to a new report released today by Energy Alabama and Alabama Interfaith Power & Light. The report evaluated the performance of Alabama’s electric co-ops on a number of issues, from governance and finances to the programs they make available to their members.
The groups examined Alabama’s 22 electric co-ops and ranked them on best practices determined by advocacy groups and member-owners. Of a total of 120 points, no co-op scored higher than 59. >>See the online scorecard here.
“Electric cooperatives are supposed to be based on the involvement and authority of its member-owners,” said Daniel Tait, Energy Alabama’s Chief Operating Officer. “But this scorecard shows that most electric cooperatives in the state are failing to live up to their principles.”
“By practice and by law, co-ops are supposed to operate by the principles of democracy. It’s shocking that any of these electric co-ops would attempt to keep their member-owners from attending a board meeting. Electric cooperatives are largely exempt from state oversight and it has real world consequences,” said Kyle Crider, Alabama Interfaith Power & Light’s Program and Policy Director.
The scorecard found that all of Alabama’s co-ops have a monthly fixed charge of more than $15, significantly higher than recommended fixed charges determined by utility ratemaking experts like the Regulatory Assistance Project. High fixed fees present a particularly steep financial challenge for lower-income members, especially those currently struggling during the COVID-economic crisis, and for those pursuing energy efficiency and renewable energy options.
“Community solar and on-bill energy efficiency financing programs can lower members’ electricity bills while promoting local economic development and reducing fossil fuel emissions. Alabama co-ops are neglecting opportunities to promote cleaner, healthier communities,” said Ruby Krasnow, researcher with Energy Alabama and the author of the report.
“Alabama’s electric cooperatives were created decades ago to provide electricity and opportunity to Alabamians who were largely ignored by the investor-owned utility companies of the time,” said Tait. “Rural America needs cooperatives to deliver again, not shirk their responsibilities. Broadband, clean energy, bill savings, rural investment. All are possible with proactive cooperatives.”
The groups acknowledged that more than half of the cooperatives scored are developing or partnering with local companies to bring broadband to their communities, but noted that the co-ops could be doing more to improve quality of life for their member-owners through energy efficiency programs, community solar and by lowering the fixed charges on monthly electric bills.
About Alabama Interfaith Power & Light
The mission of Alabama Interfaith Power & Light (ALIPL) is to be faithful stewards of Creation by responding to climate change through the promotion of environmental justice, energy conservation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy from a faith perspective. ALIPL is a program of The People’s Justice Council and sponsors such campaigns as the Interfaith Statement on Energy & Equity and Weatherizing Every Residence in the South East (WERiSE).
About Energy Alabama
Energy Alabama is a membership-based non-profit organization accelerating Alabama’s transition to sustainable energy. We accomplish our mission by educating at all levels, informing smart energy policy, building the next generation workforce, and providing technical assistance to deploy more sustainable energy. We believe in sustainable energy for all. Learn more at energyalabama.org