Member-owners join together to support transparency and governance reforms for Virginia’s rural electric cooperatives


Dan Radmacher, (540) 798-6683,
Erin Hellkamp, 407-432-6400,

Richmond, Va. — A coalition representing member-owners of Virginia’s rural electric cooperative (RECs) is rallying in support of Del. Wendy Gooditis’ legislation that seeks to establish protections and safeguards for customers (member-owners) of the thirteen rural electric cooperatives in the state. These reforms would include allowing member-owners to observe board meetings, voter integrity measures for cooperative board elections, and transparency in cooperative political lobbying.

House Bill 723 has earned the support of the energy consumer protection coalition that represents a grassroots movement of electric cooperative member-owners. The coalition consists of Repower REC (Rappahannock Electric Cooperative), SVEC Check (Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative), PVEC Member Voices (Powell Valley Electric Cooperative), Appalachian Voices, Piedmont Environmental Council, Solar United Neighbors, Virginia Organizing, and Virginia Sierra Club.

There are thirteen rural electric cooperatives in Virginia that serve 700,000 member-owners and represent more than 1 million Virginians. All cooperatives commit to a principle of democratic member control. Customers of rural electric cooperatives are member-owners of the co-op. Member-owners should be able to participate in co-op policy and business decisions through fair board elections with well-informed voters. Co-op board decisions affect member-owners’ electric rates, quality of service, and access to broadband and energy saving programs.

A recent Virginia REC scorecard developed by the coalition brings attention to the limits to democratic member participation at electric co-ops highlighting democratic participation challenges faced by member-owners. The scoring shows a majority of Virginia electric co-ops need improvement and are deficient in many areas. Overall, Virginia electric co-ops are far behind in scoring when compared to the two nationally leading co-ops.

“We are so fortunate to have such great electrical co-ops in Virginia,” said Delegate Wendy Gooditis (D- Clarke). “As we have done in the Virginia legislature, I am hoping that we can move the cooperative model in Virginia towards a more inclusive governance process. This includes increasing transparency and protecting the interests of the member-owners that rural electric cooperatives serve.”

“Virginia’s electric cooperatives often claim they speak for their member-owners, but that rings hollow,” said Seth Heald, Repower REC and Rappahannock Electric Cooperative Member-Owner. “Most electric co-ops in the commonwealth do not allow their members to observe electric cooperative board meetings, leaving members in the dark as to how their board is operating. This legislation will bring overdue governance reforms and protect the rights of rural Virginians to participate in a fair democratic process at the utilities they own.”

“Nearly one in five Virginians get their electricity and power from an electric cooperative,” said Aaron Sutch, Atlantic Southeast Regional Director, Solar United Neighbors. “While some electric cooperatives are responsive to their members, many have serious governance and transparency issues impacting members’ utility rates and service options. Many RECs have increased fixed access fees that harm low-income members and discourage investments in solar and energy efficiency. Solar United Neighbors supports Delegate Gooditis’ vision to protect member-owners and give them accountability in decisions affecting their utility rates and service options.”

“Member-owners at Virginia’s rural electric cooperatives are being denied their basic rights to democratic governance of their utility,” said Emily Piontek, Energy Democracy Field Coordinator, Appalachian Voices. “They are prevented from participating at board meetings and from accessing necessary information about their board’s activities. Appalachian Voices supports Delegate Gooditis’ efforts to bring the power back to people of Virginia’s rural electric cooperatives.”

“Virginia’s electric cooperatives have a basic problem: member-owners cannot attend board meetings,” said Bill Kornrich, Powell Valley Electric Cooperative Member Voices and Powell Valley Electric Cooperative Member-Owner. “We’re asking for a simple solution: to allow member-owners to attend and observe board meetings where key decisions are made that directly impact the people they represent and serve. The Powell Valley Electric Cooperative opened its monthly board meetings to member-owners in 2018 and as a result, it has fostered a more collaborative relationship and produced successful outcomes for our community. Open board meetings provide an important opportunity for member-owners to observe how decisions are made concerning management of the electric cooperative. This legislation holds all of Virginia’s electric cooperatives accountable and ensures their governing actions are accessible to their member-owners.”

The coalition is scheduled to host a webinar that is free and open to the public on January 18 at 7 p.m. to educate energy consumers about the detailed scorecard that ranks Virginia’s thirteen rural electric cooperatives on a range of transparency and governance issues.


Appalachian Voices is a leading nonprofit advocate for a healthy environment and just economy in the Appalachian region, and a driving force in America’s shift from fossil fuels to a clean energy future.

Solar United Neighbors is a nonprofit organization that works in Virginia and nationwide to represent the needs and interests of solar owners and supporters. Solar United Neighbors holds events and education programs to help people become informed solar consumers, maximize the value of their solar investment, and advocate for fair solar policies.