THE COOPERATIVE DIFFERENCE
Carroll EMC is an electric cooperative (or co-op), a utility owned by every customer who uses its services. That’s why Carroll EMC and other cooperatives refer to their consumers as Members.
The dictionary defines “cooperative” as “working or acting together willingly for a common purpose of benefit.” This is what the founding Members of Carroll EMC did as they worked together to bring electricity to western Georgia in 1936.
Once a consumer pays the $15 Carroll EMC membership fee, they become a Member and part owner of the cooperative. Every Member-owner has a voice in how the cooperative is operated and influences this process through voting at the annual meeting. Because the Members of the cooperative are also the owners, Carroll EMC is a locally owned and operated business.
Many large utilities are owned and controlled by stockholders, private investors who may or may not live in the same state or even country as the company. Carroll EMC, like other electric cooperatives, is owned and controlled exclusively by local consumers. Being customer-owned is at the heart of The Cooperative Principles that define Carroll EMC’s identity.
Carroll EMC is democratically controlled by its Members. It is governed by a nine-member board of directors elected from among the membership. All Members are asked to participate in the co-op’s annual meeting, held each October, at which board members are elected.
Carroll EMC operates on a not-for-profit basis. Excess margins are returned to Members either in the form of capital credits or in stable rates and infrastructure.
Capital credits are unique to cooperatives like Carroll EMC. Private power companies make profits and pay dividends to stockholders. Cooperatives, on the other hand, work on a not-for-profit basis and allocate to members any margins, or income remaining after all of the cooperative’s bills have been paid and all expenses considered. "Capital credits" is the term used for the allocation of each Member's share of the margins.