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Electric Cooperatives Trace Start to Texas

Courtesy Mary Saage and Bartlett Electric Cooperative
This home in Bartlett, Texas was the first house in the United States energized with power financed under the Rural Electrification Administration.

If you receive your electricity from a cooperative, you aren’t just a customer—you’re a part owner.

That’s because electric co-ops are independent and collectively owned and governed by people like you—your fellow member-customers.

Electric co-ops serve more than 42 million Americans, yet they remain deeply rooted in the communities where they started 75 years ago.

As late as the mid-1930s, nine out of 10 rural homes lacked electricity. But on May 11, 1935, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order No. 7037, establishing the Rural Electrification Administration (REA)—the federal program that helped energize the nation’s largely darkened rural areas.

The same year, one of the nation’s first electric cooperatives, now called Bartlett Electric Cooperative, was organized in Bartlett, Texas. In March 1936, it lit up the first house in the United States energized with power financed under the REA. The REA, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, was the precursor to today’s Rural Utilities Service, which makes loans and loan guarantees to electric cooperatives and telephone, water and sewer utilities that serve rural areas.

Today, there are approximately 900 electric co-ops nationwide and more than 60 in Texas. These electric cooperatives continue to operate as democratically governed businesses. Collectively, electric cooperatives own and maintain 42 percent of the nation’s electric distribution lines.