Global network aims to unite utility co-operatives

Midcounties Co-operative’s pioneering move into the domestic energy supply market with the launch of Co-operative Energy has been given a global flavour following the setting up of an...

Midcounties Co-operative’s pioneering move into the domestic energy supply market with the launch of Co-operative Energy has been given a global flavour following the setting up of an influential network to share best practice.

The society’s Chief Executive Ben Reid joined leaders from energy co-operatives in the United States, South America and Europe to explore ways of growing the co-operative presence in the sector at a mini-summit in Cancun, Mexico, during the recent International Co-operative Alliance General Assembly.

The meeting agreed to establish an informal grouping run under the auspices of the ICA and extend the invitation to co-operatives in all utility sectors, not just energy.

Said Mr Reid: “We launched Co-operative Energy in the spring and already have more than 16,000 customers. While it has undoubtedly been a big success we’ve learned a lot and developed a significant level of expertise along the way.

“Helping others is a basic principle of the Co-operative Movement and this new group, to be known as the Utilities Co-operatives Network, will give us the opportunity to share our ideas and experiences as well as learn from utility co-operatives in other countries.”

Issues the network will tackle include helping co-operatives be in the best shape to influence the regulatory environment each has to work in; exchanging information on trends and practices as well as sharing success stories; and looking at how to access funds to grow utility co-operatives.

Added Mr Reid: “This month sees the launch of the International Year of Co-operatives, which not only highlights the global impact co-operatives have, but acknowledges co-operation as a desirable way to do business — with a recognition that commerce and social well being can sit happily together.

“The development of the co-operative model in the utilities sector, with our emphasis on fair pricing, fair treatment of customers and environmental responsibility, is a prime example of that.”

• Co-operative Energy has announced that it is to cut its prices to most of its 16,000 customers by an average of three per cent from February 1st, which will make Co-operative Energy cheaper than all the big six standard tariffs in all 14 regions. Co-operative Energy’s Nigel Mason commented: “The exceptionally mild weather in the autumn has led to a drop in wholesale prices, so we’re passing on those savings as soon as we can.”

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