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“To deliver to all member systems, stably and competitively priced, economical and highly reliable wholesale power, for the benefit of their members and their communities.”
Very few Americans alive today can remember life without electricity, and the success of the rural electric cooperative program is a big reason why today, Americans take electric power for granted.
Ohio had enjoyed the benefits of electricity for several decades prior to 1935. But only about two Ohio farms out of every 10 were electrified by then and, for the most part, they were the farms close to towns and existing power lines. Farther away, life on the farm was tough, requiring a lot of human labor and long hours.
The investor-owned electric utilities (IOUs) were reluctant to construct lines into rural areas, arguing there were too few customers – and that the ones who were there wouldn't use much power – to make service economically viable.
But on May 11, 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 7037, which established the Rural Electrification Administration. The REA was to secure funds for the purpose of providing electric power to rural areas.
Ohioans were among the first to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the REA, which a year later was made an independent agency inside the U.S. Department of Agriculture. in November 1935, $254,000 in REA loan funds as approved for construction of 193 miles of new power lines near Piqua, which marked the birth of Ohio's first electric cooperative, Pioneer REC.
Today, 25 different electric co-ops serve more than 380,000 homes and businesses in 77 of Ohio's 88 counties. Their combined service areas cover about 40 percent of the state's land areas, including most rural areas. It is in this area that Ohio's food and fiber are produced for the state's population, as well as a large export market.
Rural electric cooperatives average seven residential consumers per mile of line, in contrast to 31 for Ohio's eight investor-owned companies. The average revenue per mile of line for rural electric cooperatives in Ohio is about one-ninth that of the investor-owned companies.
The cooperatives depend on Ohio Rural Electric Cooperatives, Inc. (OREC), their statewide trade association, for services like loss control and safety training, lobbying and communications, including production of Country Living magazine, the state's largest-circulation monthly magazine. They get their electricity from Buckeye Power, Inc., an electricity generating and transmission co-op that was formed and is owned by the 25 distribution co-ops.
And all these cooperatives are linked together with more than 600 other electric co-ops across the country in a national alliance called Touchstone Energy®.
Why do utility customers, in survey after survey, say they prefer to get their power from a cooperative? Because ownership makes the difference! Unlike the IOUs that must balance the interest of the consumer with that of Wall Street, electric cooperatives provide services solely in the interest of the member.
The OREC/Buckeye Power offices in Columbus, Ohio.
The results can be amazing. Each and every employee of the rural electric program works for the benefit of the member, while the member is treated with the uncommon distinction that he/she is the owner. We think that makes a powerful difference in today's competitive marketplace.