The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) is a national service organization which represents consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives, public power districts, and public utility districts. As proud members of NRECA, we see an immense amount of benefit in what they do for rural electric cooperatives (RECs).
To understand the benefits of RECs though, it’s also important to understand how they came to be. Today in the United States, rural electric cooperatives provide power to over 42 million people. However, just 87 years ago 9 out of 10 people living in rural America still used kerosene lamps to light their homes. In less than nine decades, nearly 900 cooperatives have brought power to hardworking people in some of America’s most remote regions.
A history lesson in rural electric cooperatives
The very existence of electric cooperatives today is tied to an important piece of American history. Just like the hundreds of projects completed by the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation, RECs owe their existence to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal initiative. In 1936 the Rural Electrification Act was passed. The act created the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) and provided federal loan money for the purpose of addressing rural America’s previously neglected electricity needs.
Everyone involved knew that electrifying these communities would not be easy or cheap. What they hadn’t counted on, however, was the ingenuity of rural farmers. These farmers already had member-owned cooperatives to help share costs and improve bargaining abilities. If the approach worked for things like buying seed, why wouldn’t it work for buying and distributing power? Indeed these farmers were right. The farmer-led cooperative approach as supported by the REA was an overwhelming success. Within 25 years almost all homes in rural America had been electrified. However, the project wouldn’t be without its challenges. That’s where NRECA comes in.
The co-ops gain a voice
Just six short years after the creation of the REA, electric cooperatives came under fire. In 1942 as war raged in Europe and the Pacific, supplies like copper wire and wood for transmission poles were in short supply. Unfortunately, false accusations arose that co-ops were hoarding copper. RECs were small and spread out. Defending themselves against these claims wasn’t so easy.
For that reason, in 1942 the NRECA was created “to provide a unified voice for cooperatives and to represent their interests in Washington, DC.” (NRECA) Since their inception, the NRECA has continued to support electric cooperatives, their employees, their members and their communities in a variety of ways. They host conferences and seminars throughout the year so they can best represent the co-ops as they lobby on the federal level. Beyond that though, they’re actively involved in activities like research and advocacy.
Perceptive Power Infrastructure and NRECA
An important part of our mission at Perceptive Power Infrastructure is to help create a more transparent energy landscape for RECs. We believe that co-ops need commercial partners they can trust and who are going to be open with them. They also need people who really understand the challenges they’re facing.
We see NRECA membership as an invaluable way to not only financially contribute to their mission of supporting co-ops and their communities, but also as a means of connecting with RECs so we can really understand where they’re coming from. We want to be present at every possible conference so we can get to know the people who are powering 21 million American homes, businesses, schools and farms.
We look forward to seeing old faces and meeting new ones at the next NRECA conferences. If you see us there, we hope you’ll stop by to talk to us. If you do, instead of starting out by talking about your power supply portfolio, we’d like to get to know you and learn more about the community you serve.
If you’d like to know more about how we’re supporting RECs, we’d be happy to talk. You can contact Scott below.