At Oregon Trail Electric Cooperative the people who receive electricity are not just customers, they are vested members with a stake in the operations of the cooperative. Members enjoy certain rights that customers don’t have with investor-owned, for-profit, utilities.
As a member of OTEC, you can choose to run for a board seat, or if you don’t want to actually run for a seat, you can offer to become a member of our nomination committee. Because you have a vote in the annual election for the board candidates of your choice, our board is democratically composed of your friends, neighbors and people who live and work in the four county service territory that OTEC serves.
Many people, however, don’t understand the various ways their membership in a cooperative affects their rates. At OTEC, our rates are based on two main components – the actual cost of the wholesale power we buy from the Bonneville Power Administration that generates our electricity, and the cost for us to get that power to you.
The second component – the cost for us to get power to you – is all of the other operational costs, including the cost for poles and lines, the cost and maintenance of trucks and buildings, actual employee costs like wages and benefits, and the costs associated with maintaining records, like the printing and mailing of bills.
We do collect some money, figured into your rates, that is invested into capital projects. This helps us to build many of the expensive system improvements to ensure delivery of safe and reliable power. Any money collected in excess of rates is allocated to each member’s account in the form of a capital credit.
Each year in early summer we get many questions as to what capital credits and allocations truly are. Capital credits represent your personal investment in the cooperative and your stake in all of its assets. You are the owner.
Unlike investor-owned, for-profit, electric utilities, which distribute their profits to stockholders, OTEC is a non-profit electric cooperative. That means if the financial position of the cooperative allows, OTEC returns a portion of its margins back to you, the member-owner. We work hard to keep our rates as low as possible – continuously searching for ways to reduce operating costs and advocating on your behalf with the Bonneville Power Administration to keep power costs low - all while guaranteeing a stable supply of clean, renewable electricity.
Returning capital credits to members is a practice unique to the cooperative model and represents one of our seven cooperative principles – Members’ Economic Participation. And perhaps best of all, the benefits of this economic participation accrues into all four counties of our OTEC communities.