What is a Cooperative?

A cooperative is a not-for-profit business voluntarily owned and controlled by the members. Unlike investor-owned utilities, an electric cooperative is operated by and for the members of the community and governed by a board of directors elected by the membership.

The seven cooperative principles are what set cooperatives apart from other power distributors.

1 Voluntary and Open Membership

Cooperatives are voluntary organizations, open to all people able to use its services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.

2 Democratic Member Control

Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members—those who buy the goods or use the services of the cooperative—who actively participate in setting policies and making decisions.

3 Members’ Economic Participation

Members contribute equally to, and democratically control, the capital of the cooperative. This benefits members in proportion to the business they conduct with the cooperative rather than on the capital invested.

4 Autonomy and Independence

Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If the co-op enters into agreements with other organizations or raises capital from external sources, it is done so based on terms that ensure democratic control by the members and maintains the cooperative’s autonomy.

5 Education, Training and Information

Cooperatives provide education and training for members, elected representatives, managers and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperative. Members also inform the general public about the nature and benefits of cooperatives.

6 Cooperation Among Cooperatives

Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.

7 Concern for Community

While focusing on member needs, cooperatives work for the sustainable development of communities through policies and programs accepted by the members.

Our History

On April 20, 1938, the State of Tennessee granted Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation a charter to construct, maintain and operate a rural electric distribution system. Funds were to be borrowed from the REA, which at that time was only three years old.

In December of that year, CEMC purchased rural lines in Montgomery County from the Kentucky-Tennessee Light and Power Company for $90,480. In April of 1939, rural lines in the Gallatin area were secured from the same company, and in August, lines in the Portland district were bought from the Tennessee Light and Power Company.

Other purchases included the Springfield area in 1941, followed by Ashland City, Dover and Erin. Erin and Houston County lines were later sold to the Meriwether-Lewis Electric Membership Corporation, leaving CEMC to serve all or part of five counties — Cheatham, Montgomery, Robertson, Stewart and Sumner.

Many people were instrumental in organizing Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation. Of the more active ones, M.C. Northington and W.D. Hudson of Montgomery County and W.C. Jackson of Cheatham County furnished leadership in the early days. Mr. Northington served as Manager of CEMC from 1938 until he retired in 1959.

In 1938, there were only 610 members and 100 miles of line compared to a membership of 110,408 and over 8,323 miles of line in 2023. By the end of the Cooperative’s first year, CEMC was valued at $508,128. Today, the plant value of Cumberland Electric is over $559 million. In the first year of operation 3,562,177 kilowatt hours of electricity were sold to members; during 2022, sales totaled over 2.83 billion kilowatt hours.

Woman using a tablet with a stylus


By applying for electric service from CEMC, and by the payment of a membership fee, you are now a member/owner of the cooperative. You join more than 110,000 members who share CEMC ownership in our five-county area. Our website and social media pages provide information about our services, energy tips, and much more. We also encourage you to read the monthly consumer publication, The Tennessee Magazine.

On behalf of our board of directors and employees, welcome to Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation.