In today’s lightning-fast, automated world, it’s easy to feel like just a number. But that’s not the way Berkeley Electric Co-op does business.

BEC has been providing safe, affordable electricity to members since 1940, when it was created to provide power to rural residents. After President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed off on the Rural Electrification Administration, a committee of six local men persuaded 600 Berkeley County residents to pay $5 each to create the co-op.

Seventy-eight years later, “electricity is still our main business,” BEC spokesman Micah Ponce said.

As a not-for-profit, member-owned utility, BEC charges customers almost “at cost” for electricity. When the utility does earn a profit, members receive refunds, “since they’re also our owners,” Ponce noted.

BEC “is more than just another utility,” Ponce said. “We are here to serve our members and be their reliable source of power and information.”

Generations of members have depended on BEC to for electricity and important information about saving energy and new technology such as digital thermostats and electric vehicles.

“We can even help them evaluate a solar panel proposal,” Ponce said.

“Today the state-of-the-art utility serves nearly 100,000 member accounts in the tri-county”, which are connected by more than 5,000 miles of electrical line. BEC is the largest electric cooperative in South Carolina, and one of the top 25 in the nation.

Berkeley Electric Cooperative’s annual members’ meeting is held each fall. Attended by 20,000 to 30,000 members, it’s the largest annual meeting of any electric cooperative in the nation.

At the annual meeting, members elect BEC’s nine-member board of trustees, with three board positions voted on at each meeting.

“One of our greatest points of pride here at Berkeley Electric Cooperative is that we are part of the communities that we serve,” Ponce said.

“We actively participate in our schools through STEM and career fairs, and provide safety and energy efficiency demonstrations to civic groups. Our employees volunteer at local festivals to help raise money for charity.”

BEC is still small enough for that personal touch: “It’s easy for members to contact us for more information or help with their problems,” he said. Options include one of the utility’s four district offices; online at www.berkeleyelectric.coop; via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram—"or they can just pick up the phone and call,” he said.

Moncks Corner members can call 843-761-8200; the Goose Creek number is 843-553-5020.