Statewide Electric Service
The 20 distribution electric cooperatives in South Carolina deliver dependable electric power to more than 739,000 accounts in South Carolina. That translates into more than 1.5 million citizens. As a group, electric cooperatives serve more consumers in South Carolina than any other utility. They serve homes, businesses and industries mostly in suburbs, small towns and rural areas.
Largest Distribution System in the State
Electric cooperatives build and maintain three times the miles of power line of any other utility. Their distribution system covers 70 percent of the state's land area with more than 72,000 miles of power line.
Power Without Profit
Cooperatives offset the expense of maintaining the largest distribution system by operating on a not-for-profit, cost-of-service basis. The savings gained by eliminating profits are passed on to consumers. Revenue above the cost of doing business and safety reserves is returned to the consumer-owners in the form of capital credits.
Local ownership also distinguishes electric cooperatives from other utilities. The consumers own and control their electric company. Cooperative members - the consumers - elect a board of trustees to represent them in setting policies for their cooperatives and rates for their electricity. Most of the consumer-owned electric cooperatives were formed in the 1930s and 1940s when investor-owned power companies refused to provide electricity to people in areas now served by cooperatives.
Territories Assigned by State Law
Electric utilities are assigned specific service territories by law. This helps consumers by preventing duplication of facilities that would add unnecessary costs as well as create hazardous conditions if utilities were allowed to build power lines on top of each other.
The number of consumers per mile of power line is an important figure to any electric utility. Electric cooperatives in South Carolina serve an average of 9.5 customers per mile of line compared to investor-owned utilities that may serve 30 or more customers per mile.
Densely populated areas with more customers per mile of line help offset the cost of serving sparsely populated areas. And population growth helps cooperatives operate more efficiently and hold down costs to their consumers.
Taxes and Community Support
Supporting their communities is fundamental to South Carolina's electric cooperatives because all of their owners live in those communities. Cooperatives are among the largest taxpayers in the state.
Cooperative volunteer organizations award academic scholarships and help families in need. Operation Round Up is a program that allows consumers to contribute to community needs. Consumers volunteer to round up their power bill to the next dollar, an average of 50 cents per month, with those pooled resources going to good causes. The successful program has spread nationwide.
The Rural Development Act of 1996 provides incentives for economic development in rural areas. As a result, electric cooperatives have invested millions of dollars in community infrastructure construction and improvement projects.
The South Carolina Power Team was formed by the independent electric cooperatives and state-owned Santee Cooper in 1988. It has helped to bring more than $9 billion in capital investment to the state. The South Carolina Power Team concentrates its economic development effort in rural counties, and the payoff has grown into more than 50,000 new jobs announced.
For more information, contact your local electric cooperative or call the association of South Carolina's electric cooperatives at (803) 796-6060.