Many people consider electricity not only a convenience, but a necessity -- something we cannot live without.But it wasn’t that long ago in southeastern Ohio that electricity was a luxury accessible only to those living in cities or well-populated areas. At the time, investor-owned utilities had deemed it unfeasible and unprofitable to extend their lines into the rural countryside.
In 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued an executive order creating the Rural Electrification Administration (REA), and the Rural Electrification Act was enacted on May 20, 1936. Deemed one of the most important pieces of legislation of the New Deal, the act allowed the government to provide federal loans for the construction of electrical systems in rural parts of the United States.
In 1940, a group of farmers obtained a 100-percent loan from the REA and organized Washington Electric Cooperative, Inc. The first memberships were issued to those paying $5 and lines were built to members with borrowed funds. The lines were energized for the first time in 1940. Back then, members then used an average of 22 kilowatt hours (kWhs) per month. Today, the average use is more than 900 kWhs.
Washington Electric Cooperative, Inc., now has more than 10,500 meters with a system that consists of more than 1,700 miles of line, eight substations and three metering points. The co-op serves portions of six counties in southeastern Ohio: Athens, Guernsey, Morgan, Monroe, Noble and Washington.