The Co-op way: Capital credit checks are in the mail

Submitted by Orcas Power and Light Cooperative

More than $1.06M in capital credit checks are going out to longtime OPALCO members this month, as they do each year. As an electric cooperative, the margin at the end of any given year goes back into the hands of members. Each year the Co-op tracks how much you pay for power and determines how much of the margin you will receive as a capital credit allocation to your membership.

Capital credit dividends are paid to members after 25 years and each year the Board approves the disbursements. The checks being sent out this year are for members active in 1998 and 1999 and will be in the mail on December 18th. The check amounts range from five dollars to thousands (for big energy users like grocery stores); most checks are for between $50 – $250.

Last year more than $15,000 was donated from capital credit checks to support Project Pal, one of OPALCO’s energy assistance programs. Project Pal offers a one-time grant (per year) to low-income members during the heating season.

This year, almost 6,000 members will get capital credit checks. Capital credits represent each member’s ownership in the Co-op. OPALCO does not earn profits. Instead, revenues over and above the cost of doing business are called “margins.” These margins represent an interest-free loan for operating capital made to the cooperative by the membership and then returned in the form of capital credits to the member after 25 years.

In 2018, OPALCO started utilizing a smoothing methodology to ensure general retirements are as even as possible from year to year and to plan for bigger margins that occur. So, all of 1998 was distributed, plus about 54% of 1998. This helps OPALCO to budget for the cash required to pay capital credits and keeps co-op margins in the members’ hands. Members will continue to get their capital credits at 25 years, but distribution will be calculated based on a general rolling average.

Please remember to keep OPALCO updated when your address changes so your capital credit distributions can find you! Learn more about capital credits:

Orcas Power & Light Cooperative is our member-owned cooperative electric utility, serving more than 11,400 members on 20 islands in San Juan County. OPALCO provides electricity that is 97% greenhouse-gas free and is generated predominantly by hydroelectric plants. OPALCO was founded in 1937. Follow OPALCO @OrcasPower on Facebook and Twitter.