In order to best meet the needs of the member-owners, Orange County REMC holds to the Seven Cooperative Principles, which are followed by cooperatives all over the world. These principles ensure that Orange County REMC is being led by its members and that it is serving its community in a responsible and helpful fashion. The Seven Principles are listed below, along with the ways that OC REMC strives to embody these values and the cooperative spirit that goes with them.
- Voluntary and Open Membership: Cooperatives are open to anyone able to use their services who is willing to accept the responsibility of membership. There is no discrimination based on gender, social status, race, political affiliation or religion.
To be a member of Orange County REMC, one only needs to live in the service jurisdiction and show that they are able to be a responsible part of the cooperative. The bills that members pay each month go straight into the purchase of energy and into the upkeep of the lines and the equipment used to service them. That’s why it’s important that each member pays his or her bill, because if they do not, then the power that they used is having to be bought by other members, delaying any improvements that Orange County REMC could have provided to the members, or reducing any refunds that members could be receiving.
In order to ensure that the non-payment of bills is at a minimum, Orange County REMC runs a soft credit check on each applicant. If the credit score is low, a deposit is required before the applicant can become a member. This restriction protects other members from paying more than they need to and keeps members responsible for their own bills. If an applicant cannot pay the deposit, they always have the option to sign up for the PrePaid Electric Service. This does not require a large deposit and allows members to structure their energy payments in a way that best meets their needs. Members who use this service can view their daily electric use online and receive notifications about the status of their account when another payment is needed.
While the requirement of a deposit for standard billing may deter some people from becoming members, an applicant will never be rejected based on their gender, social status, race, political affiliation or religion.
- Democratic Member Control: Cooperatives are controlled directly by their members. Elected representatives are accountable to membership, and members are expected to participate actively.
On January 13, 1937, Orange County REMC held its first annual meeting. Since that initial gathering, the cooperative has continued to elect representatives to its board at the annual meeting, which has become an excellent opportunity for members to not only vote on leaders that will represent member’s goals and interests over the representative’s term, but the annual meeting is also a great way for members to learn what new programs are being offered by Orange County REMC.
Currently, Orange County REMC has seven elected REMC members as representatives for the seven districts that make up the cooperative’s jurisdiction. These members are dedicated people who have the best interests of Orange County REMC’s members at heart. They serve three-year terms and then can run again to be re-elected. The directors meet monthly with Orange County REMC’s general manager/CEO to receive an update on the coop’s business, including a financial report.
- Members’ Economic Participation. Members control the capital of their cooperative and are expected to operate as a not-for-profit organization. If there is a surplus in capital, it is used to fund improvements or expansion, or it is credited to members.
- Autonomy and Independence. Cooperatives are autonomous, democratic and always controlled by members.
When a member sends in their monthly bill payment, the proceeds go directly to the running of Orange County REMC. The money pays for the purchase of energy from Hoosier Energy, equipment and line maintenance, and administrative costs such as salaries and pensions. Funds are also used for upgrades and improvements to the cooperative’s equipment and various systems that are essential for communications and data entry.
The majority of these costs are paid each month by the standard facilities charge that members see in their bills, as the electric usage potion is based on the wattage used by that member. If there are margins, the cooperative holds onto it for a period of time in case of an emergency expense, like if a large windstorm causes expensive damage to lines and equipment. After this holding period, money is either credited to members or is used to fund improvements. The choice between these two options is voted on by the Board of Directors.
In this, the cooperative remains non-profit. No money is stored or dispersed without the Board’s approval, and they are duty-bound to act in the interests of the members who voted them in. When members actively participate by sharing their opinions at the annual meeting, through the surveys that are sent out by Orange County REMC, and by reaching out to the cooperative when they experience a problem, they are allowing the cooperative to be run by its members, which is the goal that Orange County REMC strives to achieve. By actively participating in decisions and programs that the REMC offers, members’ needs are being met by their cooperative.
As Orange County REMC is accountable to its members over all else, this cooperative is a separate entity from the energy cooperatives that are in the surrounding counties. Orange County REMC follows the needs of its members and the rules and regulations put in place by the government. While cooperatives do assist each other when it comes to networking, training, and sharing techniques, they do not share the information of their members with each other, nor are they accountable to each other. Orange County REMC is owned by its members and not a corporate office, keeping all democratic power in the hands of the members.
- Education, Training and Information. Cooperatives educate and train their members so they will continue to grow and improve. They also inform legislators and the public about the benefits and nature of cooperatives.
- Cooperation Among Cooperatives. The cooperative movement is strengthened by collaboration between cooperative organizations. This can happen at the local, national and international levels.
Orange County REMC works with 17 other energy cooperatives in the region when it comes to training employees and networking on projects. Recently, this collaboration between cooperatives has culminated in the sharing of information between Orange County REMC and Jackson County REMC on the current Fiber Project. Jackson County REMC is already in the process of bringing its members internet connection through the installation of fiber cables. Orange County REMC employees are able to gather experience and knowledge from Jackson County workers as Orange County REMC stands at the beginning of this large, yet highly-anticipated, undertaking. This cooperation between cooperatives also is beneficial when it comes to training employees. When new safety training or training on equipment is needed for employees, oftentimes neighboring cooperatives are able to send employees at the same time. This gives more opportunities for information to be shared between cooperatives and creates better informed REMC employees.
The cooperative also assists in educating those outside the current employee pool. One program that is offered by Orange County REMC is the internship program. This allows college students to gain first-hand experience in their fields, working in various positions in the Orleans office. These students are gathering knowledge on their chosen career path as well as potentially earning class credits through their college or university.
- Concern for Community. Cooperatives work for sustainable development in their communities through policies agreed upon by their members.
The cooperative also trains and educates its surrounding community through various programs. Supporting the community and giving back to its members is one of Orange County REMC’s tasks that isn’t taken lightly. These opportunities enhance the community and build relations with members and nonmembers alike. Many programs have been established that provide assistance to the surrounding area. These programs include Youth Tour, Touchstone Energy Camp, Page Day, and programs that are funded through Operation Round Up.
Orange County REMC sponsors local sixth graders to attend Touchstone Energy Camp each June. For three days, campers stay at Camp Tecumseh in Brookston, IN and enjoy typical camp activities like swimming, campfires, ziplining, horseback riding, and rock climbing. In addition, campers also learn about important topics such as alternative energy, electric safety, and the impact a cooperative makes in their communities. Kids not only have a good time, but also gain skills and knowledge that will keep them safe and help them be better leaders among their peers.
Page Day is an opportunity for students to travel to Indianapolis and volunteer as pages for Indiana senators and congressmen. It serves as an occasion to get kids interested in government and to gain valuable volunteering experience.
Incoming seniors in high school have the opportunity to be sponsored by Orange County REMC to attend National Rural Electric Cooperative Youth Tour. Every June, as many as 1,500 high school students are sponsored by their electric cooperatives from all across the country to spend a week in Washington, D.C. Students learn about the origins of electric cooperatives, get the opportunity to speak with state senators, and visit historical landmarks.
These three programs are aimed at giving students in Orange County REMC’s region the ability to get involved and the chance to develop their leadership and personal skills.
Orange County REMC also allows members a chance to donate small amounts of change every month when they pay their utility bill through Operation Round Up. Members can volunteer to round up their electric bill to the next dollar each month. The money is then collected into a trust directed by an independent group of trustees who disperse the money through grants. Local residents can make applications for the grants by filling out the appropriate paperwork. The community and its residents can use the grants to satisfy a variety of needs, such as scholarships for students and donations for local nonprofits. Members who sign up to be part of Operation Round Up end up donating an average of $6 a year, as they’ll never have to donate more than 99 cents each month. Since this program’s founding, more than $437,814.91 has been redistributed to the local community. More information about Operation Round Up is available here.
Orange County REMC is committed to its members and its community and follows the Seven Cooperative Principles in its current operations and in the goals that it plans for the future to ensure that it is serving in the best possible way. Through the participation of members, Orange County REMC is able to continue assisting its region by providing more than just electricity to its members.