Vital Signs: NRECA's Summary of Distribution Cooperative Data

Article excerpt

Vital Signs, first produced in 1985, is an annual analysis of the data reported by rural electric systems from the end of the previous calendar year. This year's report is based upon 2005 data from 846 distribution systems. All data is treated confidentially and no individual system data is released or published.

The 2005 operating data demonstrate that electric distribution cooperatives continue to have strong financial performance. The financial ratios are favorable and positive. Growth in sales and consumers is higher than for other utilities. While rates have noticeably increased, efficiency and productivity have continued to improve.

Cooperative Sales Growth

Distribution cooperatives sold 364 billion kWh in 2005, an increase of 17 billion kWh--or 5%--over the prior year. Overall co-op sales growth was stronger than the electric utility industry as a whole which saw growth of 2.7% in 2005 according to the EIA Electric Power Annual Summary Statistics. Factors affecting the year to year change in retail electric sales include weather-which strongly impacts residential heating and cooling--and economic growth, which drives commercial and industrial sales. Most cooperative loads are highly residential and are therefore more sensitive to weather conditions.

During 2005, 361 cooperatives reported kWh sales growth of more than five percent; 330 cooperatives experienced sales growth of between zero and five percent; and 90 cooperatives reported a decline in kWh sales for the year.

Strongest Sales Growth

The map below shows the cooperatives that had sales growth of 5% or more. Record summer heat from the Great Lakes to the Southwestern US contributed to strong sales in 2005.

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Sales Growth Varies from Year to Year

Annual kWh sales for utilities vary according to weather and economic conditions. Co-op sales are largely residential and are even more weather dependent than investor-owned utilities. Coming offa low year in 2003, overall sales were up 3.5% in 2004 and up 5% in 2005. Residential sales increased 5.7% in 2005 and commercial and industrial (C&I) sales increased 4%.

2001   2.4%
2002   5.4%
2003   1.7%
2004   3.6%
2005   5.0%

Note: Table made from bar graph.

Co-op Sales Outpace the Industry

Cooperative sales growth generally surpasses that of the total electric utility industry as a whole and did so again in 2005.

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Co-op Consumer Growth is Strong

Cooperatives now serve 17 million consumers. The rural electric network added over 400,000 new members last year--an increase of 2.6%. Typically, co-op consumer growth is higher than other segments of the electric utility industry. Many co-ops serve new extremely high-growth metropolitan areas. In recent years, a few cooperative have also added new consumers through acquisitions.

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High Consumer Growth Widespread

One third of all cooperatives experienced strong consumer growth (over 2%) in 2005. Co-ops are experiencing high growth in all pars of the country, not just the fast growing regions of the Southeast and West. Retirement migration, recreations activity and the expansion of metropolitan areas have brought many new consumers to co-op service areas. Only 43 cooperatives actually lost consumers in 2005.

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Cooperatives Lead Industry in Consumer Growth

From 2003 through 2005, the rate of consumer growth for cooperatives has been well above that of the total industry. Co-ops grew 2.6% overall in 2005, adding over 400,000 new customers (meters). This is an estimated 900,000 additional people served by the rural electric network.

         Industry     Co-op

2003       0.7%       2.3%
2004       1.2%       2.7%
2005       1.7%       2.6%

Note: Table made from bar graph. … 

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