Cooperatives operate according to a core set of principles which make electric cooperatives different from other electric utilities.
Open and Voluntary Membership: those who may reasonably use the cooperative's services ---within the practical limits imposed by existing facilities, geography, etc. --- must be permitted to join. None may be barred for such reasons as race, religion, sex, nationality or economic situation.
Democratic Member Control: Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting policies and making decisions. The elected representatives are accountable to the membership. In primary cooperatives, members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote) and cooperatives at other levels are organized in a democratic manner.
Member’s Economic Participation: Dollars left over after all expenses would be regarded as profit for other organizations. In this case, however, they do not belong to the cooperative, but to the members, and must be allocated on the co-op books. Such dollars are returned to members, on a basis decided by the member-elected board, in proportion to each member's use of the service.
Autonomy and Independence: Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If they enter into agreements with other organizations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their cooperative autonomy.
Education, Training and Information: Cooperatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperatives. They inform the general public, particularly young people and opinion leaders about he nature and benefits of cooperation.
Cooperation Among Cooperatives: Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.
Concern for Community: While focusing on member needs, cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies accepted by their members.