Rural Electric Cooperatives like Connexus Energy were created after the passage of the Rural Electrification Act of 1936. Rural residents organized into cooperatives to access federal loans and build out electric distribution systems. Co-op members have been the owners of their electric cooperatives from the beginning. But today, according to information from the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, more than half of all rural electric co-op members do not identify as “members”. Most electric co-ops have failed to cultivate relationships with members and live up to the cooperative principle of Democratic Member Control. We believe that member empowerment is fundamental to the future of Connexus Energy. Member input and member access should be at the heart of our Connexus culture and future planning.
Connexus members should never have the need to question whether decisions made by our co-op’s leaders are being made in the best and long-term interests of Connexus members. In Minnesota, electric co-op leaders testified before the Minnesota legislature that oversight and regulation of electric co-ops by the state are unwarranted because Minnesota’s electric cooperatives are “the most democratic grassroots institutions in Minnesota.” But in many co-ops members are being left behind. They are disconnected from co-op leadership and governance and are not being properly informed about basic co-op policy and how to have a voice as members. The Minnesota Local Energy Project recently produced a Rural Electric Co-op Report Card showing member-owners how their co-ops faired on providing basic information to members. Connexus Energy was one of those co-ops.
For electric cooperatives to live up to their most democratic institution claims they must strive for transparency, accountability, and consistently practice good governance. We believe that this applies to Connexus and we in turn pledge to put our member-owners first, to build a member-driven democratic co-op culture.
Connexus Energy is required to return excess capital to its members. The program is called Cash Back. If you are currently a Connexus customer then you are currently in the Connexus system database and you should be notified if Connexus owes you money. But if you are not currently in the system for one reason or another you may find yourself on the list of people to whom Connexus owes money – but cannot locate. According to 2016 data, the list includes more than 18,000 names of people due more than $17 million. We believe that Connexus has an obligation to do more to locate these people and get them their money. Find out more about Cash Back.
This has been the mantra of electric companies, especially electric cooperatives, for a long time. It’s a commitment that should be at the heart of the co-op’s service to its members. Safe has referred to delivering electricity with caution and care to protect both customers and co-op workers. Affordable in co-ops refers to the members’ reliance on leadership and management to procure generation and distribute electricity to customers at “the cost of service” while still making smart investments to ensure future delivery. nd reliability is the demand of every co-op member. We are committed to furthering the record of Connexus in providing safe, reliable, and affordable electricity to our members. We are also committed to keeping up with the changing landscape of power generation, transmission, and interactive service to our members.
The electric sector is in flux. Coal-fired central station power plants are no longer the most effective way to produce and deliver power. Coal plants are not being built, many have closed and another plant closes every 25 days across the country. The power grid is being redesigned to take advantage of new innovation and efficiencies. Grid Security is a number one concern as it should be if safety and reliability are to remain our primary commitments. And clean energy generation is ruling the day as costs continue to decline for all technologies including wind, solar, and battery storage. The new Connexus investment in solar and storage is just the start of where we believe the future will take us to continue to serve our members with the safest, most affordable, and most reliable electric service.
The best way to ensure energy democracy for Connexus is to vote for candidates who will listen to and work for our members.