Before 1936, few people in rural America had electric service. Almost everyone wanted electricity, but the expense of providing service to sparsely populated areas of the countryside made rural electrification unattractive to private enterprise. In response to the overwhelming need for electric service, Congress passed the Rural Electrification Act of 1936. The legislation made federal funds available for loans (not grants) to member-owned cooperatives for purposes of electrifying rural America.
Today, nearly 900 rural electric cooperatives are providing electric service to 75 percent of the land mass in the United States, with co-ops being an integral, locally-owned partner in the communities they serve. Co-ops work hard to ensure that rural America is not left in the dark. They work to bring economic development into the countryside. Electric cooperatives are members in the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) located in Washington, D.C.