Bring Co-op Power to Your Community
You can start your own energy cooperative, or you can share ours (if you live in the Northeastern US). The Community Energy Cooperatives in Co-op Power's network are working together to create a commons - a shared group of resources and a support system that you can use to develop community-owned, community-scale sustainable energy products and services, projects, businesses, and jobs for your community. They are focused on creating a more just and sustainable energy future in the Northeastern US.
Reasons why you might want to share our cooperative: You'll have access to technical expertise, business plans, and development resources right away from the network of Community Energy Cooperatives. You'll save time. You'll have staff and expertise right away. You'll save $100,000 to $150,000 a year in management salaries, governance, and legal fees, (and you will contribute a share of your development fees and income to support shared expenses). You'll be part of Co-op Power financially too... so when things are going well for Co-op Power overall, you'll benefit (and when they're not, you'll help where you can). You'll be part of a multi-race, multi-class cooperative supporting local, regional, national, and global energy solutions, creating a more just and sustainable future. If you want to do that by bringing community-owned businesses, projects, products and services and jobs to your community and to our region, come share our co-op.
Reasons why you might not want to share our cooperative: You'll be part of governance system, making decisions with others on the board, rather than just making your own decisions. It takes time to build relationships with other Community Energy Co-op leaders and to focus on regional, national, and global solutions. You'll be part of Co-op Power financially too... so when things are going well for Co-op Power overall, you'll benefit and when they're not, you'll help where you can. If you only want to work with people in your community on one project, best to do it on your own. If you don't think there is time to address and make reparations for race and class inequities, you may be frustrated by our focus on that. If you think large corporate solutions are the only solutions that work, you may be frustrated by our focus on small business and local economic development. If you want to create a more just and sustainable future by educating people about our alternatives alone, it may be better to do that through a resilience or climate action network.
Organizationally, sharing our cooperative means that you share our cooperative structure. The Co-op Power Board is made up of representatives of the Community Energy Co-ops along with several at-large Board Members elected by all of the Co-op Power Members. Each CEC leadership team is a subcommittee of the Co-op Power Board. Decisions about what projects you do, what products and services you offer, and how you use your money are proposed by your leadership team or your members, and brought to the Co-op Power Board for decision. The Board hires a CEO who hires other staff and they serve as your CEO and staff. Any staff hired by your CEC have a dual report, to you and to the CEO. Financial risks and rewards are shared.
Here's a description of our regional structure, the charter each Community Energy Co-op agrees to when they join, and the development chart that helps describe the journey of building your Community Energy Co-op.
If you want to share our cooperative...
Step #1) Apply. Decide you want to become a Co-op Power Community Energy Co-op. You can define your Community Energy Co-op in any way you wish, with whatever geographic or interest group you choose. Have a group of 20 people send in a Letter of Interest to the Co-op Power Board, saying they're ready to join (if they haven't already).
Step #2) Getting to Know Each Other. Nominate one of your members to be an advisor to the Board. Elect another member to be your CEC coordinator. Send both to participate in Board meetings via conference call or in-person.
Step #3) Decision Time. The Co-op Power Board decides whether to accept your new Community Energy Co-op based on Board Criteria for CEC's and Projects. If accepted, your CEC's advisor to the Co-op Power Board will continue to advise the Board until the next March Annual Member Meeting, when your Community Energy Co-op will elect a representative to the Co-op Power Board.
Step #4) Getting the Collaboration Started. You'll meet with Co-op Power staff to figure out how to access resources from the Co-op Power Board and staff and your CEC will work to carry out the recommended responsibilities of a Community Energy Co-op. Co-op Power will extend the products and services it offers members to your region where appropriate and possible. Your CEC may engage your community in a clean energy participatory planning process to reduce your region’s energy use; build more local, clean energy resources; and re-localize your economy. You might also figure out if a Sustainable Energy Business Development Project is needed and appropriate for your community and begin to develop it.
Step #5) Membership Development. Your CEC will want to build your membership base. You might recruit local vendors to “Sweeten the Pot” to encourage members to join (restaurant and book store discounts, food co-op discounts, hot tub discounts, massages, etc). You might hold outreach meetings, table at events, run training programs, and run stories in local newspapers and newsletters encouraging people to join your CEC and support your work. You will want to develop your mailing list of people interested in building a sustainable and just energy future for your region and sign on more members. 75% of the memberships raised by your CEC will be held in trust to invest in your Sustainable Energy Project (2/3rd of that is equity to invest and 1/3rd is income you can spend). 25% of the memberships you raise will be allocated to support regional Co-op Power Member Development and Governance activities.
Step #6) Project Letter of Interest. When you're ready to invest in a business development project, you send a Project Letter of Interest to the Co-op Power Board.
Step #7) Review Process. Co-op Power Staff send the Project Letter of Interest to a Board-Appointed Advisory Group for review. The Advisory Group produces a report that advises the Board on how well this project meets each of the Member-Adopted Criteria.
Step #8) Decision Making. The Advisory Group sends their report into the Co-op Power Board. If the project meets the Member-Adopted Criteria and if Co-op Power has the capacity to adequately support the project, it will be accepted. The Board will instruct the Co-op Power CEO to negotiate a Project Agreement with your CEC's Leadership Team that will outline roles, responsibilities, action plans, timelines, and budget for Project Development.
Step #9) Business Planning and Development. With support from Co-op Power staff and other CEC's, your CEC will complete the planning process, secure financing, and develop your business or project.
Step #10) Project Launch. Launch your project to create green jobs and energy resources needed in your community.