When we flick on a light, or snap on the TV, chances are pretty slim that we think about the vast and sprawling connections — of power plants, people, machines and wires — that make up the electric grid. But as we celebrate National Co-op Month in October, we at the Vermont Electric Cooperative are taking note that VEC members are all linked to each other, not just by wires, but also by co-op values.
VEC’s core mission is to provide safe, affordable, reliable electricity to our members. But, importantly, we (you) are also a community-focused, nonprofit entity that belongs to the communities we serve. VEC was built, and is led, by our members.
We are run by you, our members. VEC is governed by a 12-member, elected board of directors, all of whom are members of the co-op themselves. The board sets the general direction for the co-op and is accountable to the community.
We are nonprofit/member-owned. Anyone who gets their power from VEC is, in effect, a part owner of VEC, so when the co-op is financially successful, they are successful. One way we share that value among our members is through allocating patronage capital, which is the money that remains at the end of the year after the co-op pays its operating expenses.
We give back to the community. The VEC Community Fund makes grants to organizations that promote economic security, energy education, emergency/disaster relief and community development in our community. Recent grants have supported new emergency radio equipment for a volunteer fire department, money for an outdoor learning center, and an old-refrigerator swap-out program. The fund is supported solely through contributions (not through electric rates) from VEC members who choose to participate by donating their patronage capital, making a direct donation, or rounding up their electric bills and donating the difference. Apart from the Community Fund, VEC staff regularly raises money for local projects and Vermonters in need via staff charity lunches and other events.
We run a member discount program. VEC recently launched a member discount program through which businesses across our region offer discounts exclusively to VEC members. There are discounts for outdoor fun and entertainment, clothing and shoes, hardware, motorsports gear and more.
We help members modernize their energy systems. VEC offers bill credits to members who choose to buy cold-climate heat pumps, heat-pump water heaters, pellet stoves and electric and plug-in hybrid cars. We also offer members an innovative community solar energy program that helps them save money and put clean, renewable energy onto the electric grid.
You can learn more about all of these items and more at vermontelectric.coop.
VEC always has our members’ best interest at heart and we strive every day to do our best to supply safe, affordable and reliable power to our members. Please join us during Co-op Month to reflect on how fortunate we all are to be part of this distinct community.
Jake Brown is an energy services planner for Vermont Electric Cooperative.