Co-Op Power

SUMMARY: Co-op Power’s innovative cooperative business structure builds sustainable energy solutions for its members and communities. Its genius lies in pooling the resources of its members and leveraging that with other revenue streams to create co-owned renewable energy businesses, green jobs, and education and organizing toward a multi-racial/class sustainable energy movement.

PROBLEM SPACE: We can’t wait for corporations and electrical utilities to build the renewable energy infrastructure we need. Co-op Power’s model makes it possible for citizens of all races and classes in the Northeast to work for that vision now, and to benefit from their co-ownership of these assets.

SOLUTION: We need a sustainable energy future, and who owns those future renewable assets and businesses matters – community owned businesses anchor capital, jobs and essential resources locally. According to the Institute for Local Self Reliance, local ownership generates 3 times more economic benefit than do businesses belonging to absentee owners. At the same time, our economic system needs to be reinvented to create shared value rather than primarily individual gain. Co-op Power’s structure manifests such changes.

Since its 2004 incorporation, it has raised $300,000 in equity and $600,000 in loans from its 420 members and leveraged that with grants and conventional loans to build $1.2 million in clean energy products and services for its members, and businesses which it retains ownership stakes in. One example is Energia, an energy efficiency business that trains and employs 48 people, many of which are minorities in a struggling post-mill town. Co-op Power also just broke ground on Northeast Biodiesel, a multimillion-dollar refinery (that it is majority owner of) and which will make quality fuel from recycled oil.

Co-op Power also buys renewable energy products for its members, saving them money through bulk purchasing and coordination. One program has helped its members install 100 kW of solar electric and 70 solar hot water systems on roofs through the power of cooperative purchase and labor, saving members many thousands of dollars.

The coop also supports the development of other businesses, helping launch nine so far (solar installation businesses, energy efficiency product manufacturers, and green electricity generators) that provide an additional 52 green jobs in the region.

Co-op Power employs 26 people and has monthly revenues of around $50,000 from its businesses, yet it remains a challenge to fund and support its various arms plus its educational, business development, and organizing efforts fully.

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