March 2024 Back Page – Your Cooperative

Posted: February 23, 2024

When I started working for AVEC in 1993 many cooperative members, who were in their fifties or older, remembered clearly what it was like to live in their communities without a central power plant; without electricity to light their homes or power their tools.  In the late 1960s when AVEC was formed, isolated communities all over Alaska were looking for ways to develop reliable electricity.  The biggest hurdle for most was finding the money needed to get things off the ground.

Even with community wide commitments to provide labor to build infrastructure, importing diesel generators, cables, and fuel tanks was a daunting expense.  Most major building projects rely on borrowing money to pay upfront costs which can be paid back over time.  Small Alaskan villages were not attractive to traditional money lenders.  Traditional banks and even the Rural Electrification Administration (REA), a federal agency developed specifically to help rural electric cooperatives get the money they needed to build, thought the risk was too high.

It wasn’t until a group of dedicated individuals determined to bring electricity to their people built the framework to allow individual villages to group together and a commitment from a handful of communities to band together that the REA finally made a $5 million loan available to help launch Alaska Village Electric Cooperative, (AVEC).  In 1969 AVEC started with four communities.  Now with 58 member communities, AVEC continues to reinvest and reinvent the infrastructure used to provide safe reliable power.

The framework that allows communities from all over Alaska to work together in the business of providing power for their people is spelled out in AVEC’s bylaws.  Those bylaws describe the representation of each community through electing a delegate to represent them at AVEC’s Annual Meeting and the election of a seven-member board of directors, each serving in the best interest of all communities in guiding the goals and direction of the cooperative.

The continuing commitment of each generation over more than 50 years has made AVEC a robust and vital part of each community it serves.  AVEC is owned and governed by the members it serves.  AVEC Community Meetings to elect delegates for the 2024 Annual Meeting have just come to a close.  Ballots are in the mail to every AVEC member to elect directors.  This year members are choosing three members of the seven-member board.  (Please take the time to complete and return election ballots when you receive them in the mail.)

The number of elders that remember the before-times, before electricity was a common commodity, has dwindled.  But the dream they had of making electricity commonly available has become a reality through the perseverance of people working together to build a cooperative, your cooperative.

Until next time,

Bill Stamm