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Texas Electric Utility Cooperatives

What does an electric co-op do?

Texas electric cooperatives are a key part of the Texas electricity market.  Electric cooperatives supply electricity to many homes and businesses in rural areas. Most electric cooperatives are non-profit organizations. They are often owned by the community and the people who pay for the power.  These cooperatives work with generators, power marketers, transmission companies, utilities, retailers and others throughout their territory to provide electric service.

It is important for Texans to understand the differences between regulated and deregulated areas of the Texas electricity market before they decide on an energy provider or switch providers if they live in an area where there is competition among providers (deregulated).

Map of Texas Electricity Cooperatives
source: TEC

 

Cooperatives serve many rural areas in Texas

Electric cooperatives are important to rural communities because they provide a reliable and affordable source of electricity. They are often owned and operated by the community, which means that the profits stay in the community. Without electric cooperatives many rural areas would not have had access to power in the past.

In the early years of the electrification of Texas and the rest of the country the focus was on providing power to the larger population centers.  This is because it was not profitable for private companies to make large investments to run power to rural areas.

A federal program began in 1935 called the Rural Electrification Administration changed the way people in the outskirts got their power.  This office laid the groundwork for federal financing for member owned cooperatives.  Farmers and ranchers were able to borrow money and build out their own utilities.

The Bartlett Electric Cooperative in Central Texas was the first cooperative in the nation to begin operations.  Today there are over 70 electricity cooperatives operating in Texas.  They provide power to over 3 million people.

The Brazos Electric Cooperative is the largest in Texas.  It is responsible for providing wholesale power to 16 different member-owned distribution cooperatives.  It is one of 9 generation and transmission cooperatives in Texas. They generate power for the state’s distribution co-ops.  There are 67 distribution co-ops within the state.

There are a few advantages of being an owner-member or customer-owner with one of these organizations. You have a say in how the cooperative is run. You can vote on board members and help make decisions about how the cooperative should operate.

Regulation of Electricity Cooperatives

Although electric cooperatives in Texas are regulated by the Texas PUC, they are not government owned.  They are owned by the members they serve.  Cooperatives are different entities than the Transmission Distribution Utilities (TDUs) that distribute power to the deregulated areas of Texas.  Oncor, CenterPoint, and the other TDUs are not cooperatives.  These for profit TDUs provide power to customers of the states Retail Electricity Providers (REPs)

Am I part of an Electricity Coop?

Most Texans by population live within deregulated areas.  This is because the state’s largest population centers including Dallas/Ft Worth the Houston area are in parts of the state open to electric choice.

However, when looked at in terms of land area, the vast majority of Texas receives its power from a cooperative electric utility (see map above).  This is because most parts of Texas are rural and most electric cooperatives serve rural areas.  There are exceptions to this including Austin and Denton.

Do I have the option to choose my energy provider if I am in a co-op?

In most cases you do not have the choice to switch providers if you live in an area that gets it’s power from a co-op.  All member-customers of a co-op are charged the same electricity rate so you don’t have the ability to shop for a cheaper rate.