Washington electric co-ops as consumer-owned utilities are self-regulated and do not require government regulation. WRECA opposes any regulation of electric co-ops or mutual companies by the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (WUTC).
Consumers of utility services and products are usually “captive” to a single service provider and don’t have competitive options that the open market generally provides consumers. This monopoly arrangement is largely due to the complexity and costs required to provide the services offered by electric companies and water companies. However, such a “monopoly market” creates a conflict of interest and puts the purchasing public in a precarious position when the utility is in business to make a profit for its owners (shareholders), most of whom will not be customers of the utility. Without an independent entity to balance the interests of the consuming public against the interests of the owners of the monopoly who seek to profit from the business, the customers are severely disadvantaged. The legislature accordingly established the UTC to act as a “referee”, providing a balance between the interests of the consumer and the owner, and thereby resolving the conflict of interest.
In the case of electric companies that are mutual companies or cooperatives, the owners of the company and the consumers of the product or service are the same individuals. Any purported protection for consumers provided by UTC regulation would be duplicative and thus unnecessary, because the consumers of electric co-ops and mutual companies themselves are also the owners of the electric company. As such, the interest of the consumer and the owner are aligned. Therefore, since there is no conflict of interest, regulation by the UTC of electric co-ops and mutual companies is not necessary and is inappropriate.
WRECA opposes any regulation by state agencies over electric co-ops and mutual companies.