The federal government long ago determined that all Americans should have access to electric power. As a result government policy has provided assistance to all electric utilities. Some electric cooperatives borrow money at favorable rates from the Rural Utilities Service (RUS), an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Critics sometimes point to those favorable interest rates as unfair subsidies. That criticism ignores the billions of dollars in government benefits going to investor-owned and municipally owned utilities in the form of investment tax credits, deferred income taxes, and tax-exempt bonds.
In fact, electric cooperatives receive less government assistance per consumer ($23) than investor-owned utilities ($52).
Sources: U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. General Accounting Office, Congressional Research Service.