Rural Electric Cooperatives and the Transition to a Clean Energy Future

A Guide for Cooperative Leaders

Rural electric cooperatives are foundational institutions within their communities, serving not only as energy providers but also a cornerstone of economic development and community well-being. Today, the electric utility industry — including rural cooperatives — is undergoing a transformation that is on par with some of the biggest industrial transformations in history, and cooperative directors are on the forefront of that transition.

This paper, co-authored by Climate Cabinet Education, the Regulatory Assistance Project, and Pace Law, is designed to provide a guide for electric cooperative directors seeking to make responsible, forward-looking planning decisions and investments within a clean energy transition – while delivering more flexible, resilient, and economic service to member-owners. You can download the full report or explore this resource in sections, below. The Executive Summary provides an overview of the entire report.


Executive Summary

Start here for a summary of the clean energy transformation, the role of the cooperative director, and an overview of this toolkit.

Read the Executive Summary


Resource Planning: The Cornerstone of a Smart and Equitable Energy Transition.

Planning has always been a critical aspect of utility operations, but its importance has grown during periods of high technological and policy change like we see today. This section dives into the changing planning landscape, goal-setting, Integrated Resource Planning, and resource development and procurement.

Read the Planning section here.


Building a Clean & Equitable Energy Future: Put Energy Efficiency First.

Energy efficiency can simultaneously reduce costs for utilities and customers, decrease price volatility, improve indoor comfort, and create hundreds of local jobs.

Read about Energy Efficiency.


Building a Clean & Equitable Energy Future: Capture Demand-Side Flexibility:

The energy sector is undergoing a paradigm shift. Whereas utilities have historically focused on energy supply in order to meet demand, advances in technology are enabling supply-side and demand-side levers.

Read about Demand-Side Flexibility.


Building a Clean & Equitable Energy Future: Electrification for Buildings & Transportation.

Electrification provides one of the biggest opportunities in the power sector today to connect customers with more affordable resources, improve grid management, and reduce harm to the environment and public health.

Read about Electrification for Buildings & Transportation.


Building a Clean & Equitable Energy Future: Expand Clean Energy Generation.

This section discusses various options that cooperative utilities have to develop or procure clean energy, and policies that may affect these decisions.

Read about Expanding Clean Energy Generation.


Policies to Address Energy Burden.

Electricity is a necessity and a prerequisite for many aspects of our lives.This section discusses policies electric cooperatives can adopt to help member-owners facing high energy burdens pay their bills.

Read about Policies to Address Energy Burden.


Good Governance

As cooperatively-owned utilities, rural electric cooperatives have a special opportunity to serve their community. Ensuring fair, transparent, and responsive governance is key to ensuring equitable representation and meeting local needs.

Read about Good Governance.