Frequently Asked Questions About United
United is an electric distribution cooperative owned by the members within its service territory who purchase electric service from the cooperative. United is governed by an elected board of directors. Each director is a member — not an employee — of the cooperative. The board establishes policies and procedures of the cooperative and those policies are executed by the cooperative’s chief executive officer who is responsible for hiring additional staff for the purpose of running the organization.
United is one of 16 member-distribution cooperatives of Brazos Electric Cooperative. United purchases its wholesale electricity from Brazos, then delivers it to our members through our distribution system. Brazos owns a number of generation resources, and this provides more reliability in a tight Texas energy market. These resources account for about half of the electric demand, and the additional power requirements are met through wholesale power purchases.
An electric cooperative is a type of electric utility that is owned by the members it serves. Its profits, or margins, are put back into the cooperative to help run the business efficiently or are returned to the member-owner as member dividends. A co-op exists solely to provide high-quality service at an affordable price for its member-owners. Originally, electric cooperatives were established in the 1930s to provide electricity to rural America. They now make up the largest electric utility network in the nation. Electric cooperatives are located in 88 percent of the nation’s counties. A total of 895 local systems reside in 47 states and serve 42 million member-owners while distributing power over 2.6 million miles of line. They also serve 56 percent of the U.S. land mass and own $183 billion in generation, transmission and distribution assets. More than 90 percent of all local electric co-ops, including United, offer electricity generated from renewable sources.Touchstone Energy is the national brand identity for that network, and United is a member of Touchstone. Learn more about it below.
The three kinds of electric utility business structures include electric cooperatives, investor-owned utilities and municipally-owned utilities. An electric cooperative is owned by the members it serves. All of the owners live in the cooperative’s service territory, with most members living in rural or semi-rural areas. A cooperative operates on a non-profit basis. This differs from an investor-owned utility (IOU), which is owned by stockholders who may or may not be customers and who may or may not live in the service area. In fact, they could live in another country. The IOU is a for-profit enterprise. Municipally-owned utilities are usually owned by a city, state or federal government agency. Municipal customers are usually located in urban or semi-urban areas. Where electric cooperatives serve approximately seven consumers per mile of line, municipal utilities serve an average of more than 40 per mile of line.
The Touchstone Energy Cooperatives brand represents United, as well as a nationwide alliance of more than 750 local, consumer-owned electric cooperatives in 46 states. Touchstone Energy co-ops collectively deliver power and energy solutions to more than 32 million member-owners every day. These cooperatives cover 56 percent of the nation's land mass with more than 2 million miles of power lines. They own $113 billion in generation, transmission and distribution assets. They accomplish their objectives by adhering to four core values: Integrity, Accountability, Innovation and Commitment to Community. By doing so, they have provided consistent high standards of service excellence to members, which is something they can count on every day. Touchstone cooperatives have achieved the American Consumer Satisfaction Index's ACSI Highest Rated Cooperative Utility Group 2014-2018. Learn more here.
A kilowatt-hour (kWh) is a unit of electrical energy equal to the energy delivered by the flow of one kilowatt (1,000 watts) of electrical power for one hour. For example, a 100-watt light bulb burning for 10 hours will use one kilowatt-hour of energy.
A component of each United member’s bill is the power cost recovery factor (PCRF). PCRF is the amount of money charged to generate electricity that was not included in United’s base rate when the rates were established in 2015. The PCRF is the part of an electric bill that directly reflects the fluctuating cost of generating power. Whenever the PCRF charge goes up or down, it means the costs to generate or purchase electricity changed. The PCRF can be negative if the price to generate or purchase electricity is less than the energy price established in the base rate.
As an electric distribution cooperative, United distributes (delivers) electricity to our members by purchasing it from a generation and transmission (G&T) utility. On bills, United breaks out the delivery charge and the Brazos G&T wholesale charge so that members see where their money goes. The wholesale Brazos energy charge is a direct pass-through to Brazos G&T. United does not obtain any revenue from that charge. The delivery charge allows United to maintain its distribution system so that members have reliable electric service.
An electric cooperative exists for the purpose of providing its members with electric service on a non-profit basis. In a cooperative, the net margins do not belong to the corporation. They belong to the individual consumers who paid the money on their monthly service bills. After reasonable reserves from net margins are set aside to pay back loans and cover operating costs and other expenses, most types of co-ops send the remainder back to the members in the form of a cash patronage refund. These are called “member dividends. Over a period of years, these membership funds take the place of federal investment. The individual's member dividends are his/her ownership equity in the cooperative. Most electric co-ops have a provision in their bylaws for repayment of member dividends on a rotating basis. Read more about member dividends here.
In 2018, United Cooperative Services announced the commercial operation of their 9.9 megawatt (AC) United Community Solar photovoltaic plant, which provides United members the opportunity to have a solar energy option at a cost-competitive price without the expense of installing a system at their home or the upkeep. It comprises 44,340 solar panels tracking the sun for optimal energy generation in 553 rows. When opened, 4,950 subscriptions were available to United members. Learn more about United's Community Solar project here.
Texas launched a bold experiment in 2002 when the state allows consumers to choose power generation suppliers.This is known as electric deregulation and if you’re unsure what it means to you, you’re not alone. Many people are confused about deregulation and its implications. To compound the confusion, the deregulation experiment has gone painfully awry in several states across the nation, most notably in California, where wholesale power rates increased as much as several hundred percent since electric deregulation was implemented. Learn about the pros and cons of a deregluated market here.