What began three years ago as a campaign to stop the spraying of weedkiller under power lines near homes in the Appalachian mountains of northeast Tennessee, has become an example of a more democratic process at electric cooperatives across the country.
Member-owners of the Powell Valley Rural Electric Cooperative earned the right to opt-out of spraying, and persuaded their co-op board to let them attend board meetings in ways that were previously prohibited.
Some members of Powell Valley have also begun to ask for a program to help members finance energy efficiency measures to save money.
Co-ops in Colorado and New Mexico, for example, are breaking away from their supplier of electricity—the Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association. They are demanding better access to renewable energy, more affordable rates and more say in how they buy or produce power, according to a report last year by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, a think tank that promotes alternative energy.