By the decade of the 1930s, most urban areas of
the United States, Texas included, had enjoyed electric
service for 50 years, but beyond the city limits,
there was darkness. It was simply not profitable
for private power companies to provide service to
sparsely populated rural areas, which meant that
farm and ranch wives were still cooking on wood stoves,
children were doing homework by the dim light of
coal-oil lamps and family members were pumping water
by hand, just as they had done for centuries.
Farmers and ranchers decided that if they were going
to get the power they needed, they would have to
take action themselves. They organized local cooperatives
to provide local, consumer-owned electric service.
The impact on rural quality of life was electrifying, to
be sure; it was even greater than anyone had dreamed.
By 1940, 567 cooperatives across the nation were
providing electricity to 1.5 million consumers in
46 states. (Today, 930 electric co-ops serve 34 million
people in 47 states.)
The nation's first electric cooperative was established
in 1935, in Bartlett, Texas. Today, Bartlett EC is
one of the 74 electric cooperatives -- 65 distribution
co-ops and 9 generation and transmission co-ops
(G&Ts) -- that provide safe, reliable electric
service at the lowest possible cost to nearly 3 million
member-consumers in Texas. Texas co-ops own more
than 286,000 miles of lines serving more than 1.6
million meters in 232 of the state's 254 counties.
Electric cooperatives are different from other power providers. As cooperatives, they are tax-paying, not-for-profit businesses owned by the consumers they serve. Voluntary organizations, open to all persons who are able to use their services, they also are democratic; their members actively participate in setting policy and making decisions.
Co-op directors are elected by member-consumers. The directors set policies to guide the manager who operates the system with a staff of local employees. As member-owned utilities, the distribution systems are self-regulating.
In addition to providing at-cost electric service and other products and services to their member-consumers, electric co-ops adhere to a proud tradition of community service. Members and employees participate in economic development efforts, volunteer and charitable undertakings and numerous other activities that benefit the communities that co-ops serve.