Rural Electricity Has Come A Long Way In 85 Years

By Tim Sharp, President/CEO
From the June 1970 issue of Co-Amp News.

Longtime Salt River members will likely remember Co-Amp News, the previous version of this monthly newsletter. Fifty-two years ago, in the June 1970 issue, then Salt River manager J.S. Broaddus wrote a column looking back on rural electricity in the 35 years since the creation of the Rural Electrification Administration, or the REA. Included in his remarks, which were titled The REA Has Come A Long Way In 35 Years, were figures and facts showing just how far rural electricity had come in the three and a half decades since the cause was taken up.

Now, as we celebrate 85 years of rural electricity at Salt River Electric this month, I’d like to show you, our members, just how far rural electricity has come in the 85 years we’ve been around.

  • Today, electric cooperatives power 56% of our nation’s landmass
  • 42 million members are served by co-ops, opposed to just 6.2 million in 1972
  • Co-ops own 2.7 million miles of distribution line
  • There are 832 distribution co-ops just like ours around the United States of America
  • $1.3 billion in capital credits has been returned to members as of 2019
  • Co-ops power over 20 million businesses, homes, schools and farms

As you can see, the growth of rural electricity has been nothing short of amazing over the past 85 years (52 years since Mr. Broaddus’ column), but the task of bringing you safe, reliable and affordable electricity hasn’t always been smooth sailing. A lot can, and has, happened over the course of 85 years, but by keeping the interests of our members at the forefront of all decisions, we’ve been able to weather the storms and come out stronger on the other side. At the end of the day, I can show you all the statistics and figures regarding rural electricity, but I think Mr. Broaddus said it best himself in 1970: “Numbers and dollar signs cannot convey the achievement of the Salt River Rural Electric. It is a major part of the local community, lending its facilities and leadership to local community endeavors.”