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Editorial: May 2016

Heartened by survey results

Editorial  BY DENNIS HILL

     Since 2000, our association has conducted a public opinion survey every two years that measures North Dakotan’s attitudes about electric utilities and energy development in general.

     The Applied Research Center in the University of North Dakota College of Business & Public Administration conducted the survey, which was completed in late February. In reviewing the survey results, we’re pleased to learn and report that North Dakotans hold the state’s electric cooperatives in high regard.

     The survey asked respondents what form of electric utility operates with the most integrity; the most commitment to community; is most accountable to customers; is most innovative in meeting customer needs; is most environmentally friendly; and has the most concern for using electricity wisely and efficiently. By large margins, the survey results came back strongly in favor of electric cooperatives.

      In another question, respondents were asked who they would prefer as their electric service provider. By nearly a three-to-one margin, people said a rural electric cooperative, even though about two-thirds of the state’s population receives electric power from an investor-owned utility.

     There could be multiple reasons for this favorable response. It could be that electric cooperatives are owned by the people they serve; it could be that electric cooperatives give back to their communities through Operation Round Up® programs; it could be that electric cooperatives return profits to their members over time in the form of capital credits; or it could be that electric cooperatives employ some 2,500 persons in the state who provide reliable, dependable electric service. 

     If asked to sum up the electric cooperative difference in a sentence, it would be the tagline that is used in the Touchstone Energy® Cooperative branding program. It’s that electric cooperatives deliver “the power of human connections.”

    What does that mean? The Touchstone Energy Cooperative logo shows three people standing together. These people represent members, directors and employees. This unique relationship of working together to provide the highest-quality service at the most affordable cost is what sets electric cooperatives apart from other utilities. In the investor-owned business model, utilities have to serve both their customers and their shareholders, with one seeking lower rates and the other seeking higher returns on their investment. This can create an inherent conflict of interest that is regulated by the Public Service Commission.

Our electric cooperatives work hard to earn the trust of our members, and we’re pleased to learn once again that we are getting recognition for delivering “the power of human connections.”


Dennis Hill, editor-in-chief of North Dakota Living, is executive vice president and general manager of the North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives, Mandan. Comments can be mailed to Dennis Hill, NDAREC, P.O. Box 727, Mandan, ND 58554-0727 or by email dhill@ndarec.com.