Diversity of Colorado’s Electric Co-ops
Because cooperatives are designed to meet their members’ needs, no two co-ops are the same. Colorado’s electric cooperatives serve a broad array of communities—from high country ski resorts to irrigated farmland on Colorado’s eastern plains. While some areas served by co-ops have abundant resources, five of the state’s six poorest counties also rely heavily on co-op power. The differences among co-ops are dramatic. For example, Holy Cross serves 10 times as many customers per mile as Southeast does. Similarly, while White River has 3,029 customers, Intermountain has 136,217.
Diversity in resources, economy, size and density means cooperatives need the flexibility to meet their members’ needs in different ways. This is most apparent in the many ways Colorado’s co-ops promote conservation and energy efficiency among members. Every Colorado cooperative educates members about conservation and energy efficiency, using programs that range from in-home energy audits to online energy use calculators, to financial incentives for installing energy-efficient appliances.
Conservation and energy efficiency are part of cooperatives’ heritage, and Colorado is no exception. Co-ops have been educating members about energy efficiency and conservation since they began in the 1930s. At the time, the limited capacity of co-ops made conservation a necessity. Today, because they aren’t working for profit, co-ops serve members by keeping down the costs of building and maintaining distribution systems, which in turn keeps down members’ costs.
By saving energy, cooperative members are saving money as well as helping to build sustainable communities. At the same time, by helping members save energy, co-ops are helping Colorado achieve its clean energy goals. It is this type of systems thinking that has made Colorado’s electric co-ops viable enterprises for more than 70 years and will sustain them in the future.