Editorial: February 2022

Who would be there?

Josh Kramer

Josh Kramer

Imagine what our state would be like without electric cooperatives.

As it was 75 years ago and still is today, electric cooperatives play a vital role in North Dakota’s economy and local communities. Electric co-ops were built by and belong to the members we serve. We are united in a common goal – improving quality of life for cooperative members. Electric cooperatives do this by both supporting communities and the people we serve and providing safe, affordable and reliable electric service.

In the mid-1930s, only 10% of rural American homes had electricity. There was little appetite at the time among investor-owned utilities for serving rural areas that lacked population density. To build a vast network of power lines, generation facilities and transmission assets would require billions of dollars in investment to complete. It was a risk private industry was unwilling to take.

When the established utilities would not serve rural places, rural people decided to serve themselves. Neighbors talked. Interest spread. Rural electric cooperatives were formed. Cooperative members viewed access to electricity as a vital component of economic development. The promise of electricity meant improved productivity of agriculture and rural industries, stronger communities and a better way of life.

Electric cooperatives worked tirelessly to electrify 90% of rural America by 1953, and ultimately serving nearly every farm, household and business in cooperative territory. Proudly, North Dakota electric cooperatives deliver power to more than one-third of North Dakotans and maintain more than 65,000 miles of distribution line across the state.

Electric cooperatives continually adapt to meet the challenges of the day. We power emerging industries and growth areas and serve places of limited growth or declining and shifting populations. We manage a diverse energy portfolio, taking advantage of renewables, while maintaining baseload resources that ensure the reliability our members expect. We work to keep the lights on 24/7 in all weather conditions at a cost members can afford.

Beyond that commitment to service, electric cooperatives are engaged in local communities. We support economic and community development, lend financial support, provide scholarships and educational opportunities to youth and donate charitably to local causes.

Electric co-ops invest in our communities and our people. We support a skilled workforce and deliver the training necessary to maintain the complex, multi-billion-dollar electrical system built by cooperatives. We provide quality jobs that support families. We make an impact.

What would our state be like without electric cooperatives? Who would be there, if not for electric cooperatives serving their members and contributing to the communities they serve?

If not for the brave, early cooperative pioneers who took a risk that others would not, and all who have contributed to the electric cooperative program along the way, the life we’ve come to love in North Dakota might look a whole lot different.

Josh Kramer, editor-in-chief of North Dakota Living, is executive vice president and general manager of NDAREC. Contact him at jkramer@ndarec.com.