Case study on multi-level governance of rural electric cooperatives in South Carolina

A member of the Market Transformation Research Team collaborated on a study led by Dr. Keith Taylor of the UC Davis Community Regional Development Department to conduct a case study of Central Electric Power Cooperative (“Central”) of South Carolina. The Team used an “appreciative inquiry” approach to describe how the rural electric cooperative effectively self-governs. Through in-depth interviews and focus groups, the researchers collected information from dozens of staff from Central and its networked cooperatives. The research highlights how Central’s multilevel model (i.e., being a cooperative of coops) provides the flexibility (and ability) to reap the benefits of both decentralization and centralization. The paper also describes how Central and its member distribution cooperatives are leveraging as

competitive advantages their response to the market and institutional threats they are facing (e.g., growing preference for renewables, increasing cost of carbon, regulatory pressure). The research builds on Dr. Elinor Ostrom’s seminal work on cooperatives.

Project Partners: UC Davis Community Regional Development Department

Sponsor: Central Electric Power Cooperative, South Carolina