Electric cooperatives are ahead of the corporate curve

Alan Wattles
During the CFC organizational meeting, Alan Wattles, president/CEO of Monroe County Electric Cooperative, Waterloo, was elected vice president of the CFC board of directors.

The electric utility industry is facing a “perfect storm” of disruptive forces, but electric cooperatives are well-positioned to capitalize on a number of opportunities, Cooperative Finance Corporation (CFC) CEO Sheldon Petersen told attendees at CFC’s 51st Annual Membership Meeting.

“For co-ops, moving forward means not only navigating an ever-expanding number of disruptive forces, but also continuing to meet the same historic obligations we always have,” Petersen explained.

Consumers are driving much of what we’re seeing as they use social media to exert pressure on companies. “This is not a one-way street,” he said. “Consumers now expect companies to engage with them in real time across different social media platforms.”

Petersen encouraged [cooperative] attendees to view these trends as opportunities. The shift toward sustainability is an opportunity “to tout our program’s longstanding commitment to communities and the fact co-ops are pioneers in the area of energy efficiency and market leaders in renewables.”

Electric cooperatives have been successful nonprofit enterprises for nearly 90 years. “In a world where companies are feeling pressure to demonstrate they are focused more on communities than the bottom line, co-ops are ideally positioned.”

When it comes to consumers wanting two-way personalized interactions with their preferred businesses, Petersen again praised the co-op legacy.

“Understanding our members and responding to their evolving needs has always been a core strength. We need to keep raising the bar.”

Most importantly for the future, co-ops need to maintain their bond as a program, Petersen concluded. “Our unity is rooted in a deep and unfailing commitment to empowering the lives of our electric cooperative member-owners. As long as we keep that commitment, there’s nothing we can’t accomplish together.