The Cooperative Difference Spelled Out

Photo portrait of Dave MarkhamCentral Electric has added a lot of new members in the past few years. In 2017 alone, our membership rolls increased by 654. That was the sixth straight year the annual number increased. Many of these new members are coming from elsewhere and may never have had their electricity service provided by an electric co-op such as CEC. They may begin our service and see us as “just another power company.”

An important article on pages 4 and 5 of this month’s edition goes a long way toward helping everyone understand how wrong that perception is. The article explains the difference between the various business models under which electric utilities provide service. Electric cooperatives such as Central Electric—along with public utility districts and municipal utilities— are sometimes referred to as public power because they “exist to serve, not to profit from serving,” as stated in the article. The vast majority of Americans and Oregonians are served by investor-owned utilities: Pacific Power and Portland General Electric, in Oregon’s case.

Speaking for electric cooperatives, I believe one of the most distinguishing properties of our business model is our No. 1 goal, member satisfaction. This is different from the investor-owned model, which makes shareholder satisfaction the top goal. True, these utilities care about customer satisfaction, but it is a means to the end of keeping their ownership happy. In our case, and that of other electric cooperatives, you are the owner. Achieving your satisfaction is our priority when making decisions about rates, infrastructure planning and construction, financial management and business services.

Another important property of your co-op is local governance. Through your ability to elect a board member from your geographical area to our nine-member board of directors, you have a direct voice in how your cooperative is governed.

Please take the time to read this educational article. I am confident you will come to appreciate the degree to which Central Electric is NOT “just another power company.”


Dave Markham
President and CEO