What is a Cooperative?
Cooperatives differ from other businesses in that they are owned by their user-members and profits are returned to members according to usage. There are two types of cooperatives; “Producer Cooperatives,” where workers are the member-owners and “Consumer Cooperatives,” like Missoula Electric Cooperative, where those who use our services are member-owners. Providing electric service as a cooperative differs from investor-owned and municipal electric utilities, because cooperatives operate for the benefit of owner-members, rather than investors.
Historically, cooperatives were established and entrusted to find solutions for electrical and telephone service, farming, banking, housing, childcare, healthcare, and food, as well as additional goods and services.
According to a 2018 NRECA study, there are more than 900 member-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives, public power districts and public utility districts across America. Together, these cooperatives serve 42 million people in 47 states, and power 56% of the nation’s landmass.
Who regulates MEC?
MEC is divided into seven districts and each district is represented by an elected official. These representatives serve on the Board of Trustees, which is the governing body and regulatory authority of the Cooperative. Board members are required to run for re-election every three years.
7 Cooperative Principles
Electric cooperatives are guided by seven principles:
- Voluntary and open membership
- Democratic member control
- Members’ economic participation
- Autonomy and independence
- Education training and information
- Cooperation among cooperatives
- Concern for community
Voluntary & Open Membership
Cooperatives are not-for-profit, voluntary organizations, open to all persons able to utilize their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership.
Democratic Member Control
Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members who actively participate in setting policies and making decisions.
Members’ Economic Participation
Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their cooperative. One of the many benefits of being a member-owner at MEC is that profits or margins, above and beyond operating expenses, are allocated back to members in the form of Capital Credits. When the financial condition of the Cooperative permits, these Capital Credits are retired and paid out to the members.
Autonomy & Independence
Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If they enter into agreements with other organizations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control as well as their unique identity.
Education, Training & Information
MEC provides ongoing education and training opportunities to our employees, Board of Trustees and members. Our primary goal is to positively impact the development of our cooperative and equip all parties with the resources to work, operate and live safely.
Cooperation Among Cooperatives
Cooperatives are more effective for their members and strengthen the cooperative voice by working with affiliated organizations and fellow cooperatives. MEC partners with the Montana Electric Cooperative Association (MECA) and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), among others.
Concern for Community
Missoula Electric Cooperative is whole-heartedly committed to community engagement and enrichment. MEC is an advocate for local education and uses unclaimed capital credits to provide annual scholarships to qualifying students and provide funding to supply local classrooms with electronic equipment. Outside of the classroom, MEC works alongside Habitat for Humanity and the Montana Food Bank, among other charitable organizations. We also join forces with our media partners to brighten the holidays for local families and children in need during the annual Turkey Drive and KYSSMAS for Kids. Supporting our local communities has been and always will be at the forefront of our mission.