Basin Electric Power Cooperative

It is impossible to tell the story of Basin Electric without mentioning the time and circumstance of America before rural electrification and the origins of distribution cooperatives and generation and transmission (G&T) cooperatives.

It was President Theodore Roosevelt who originally researched federal dams for flood control, conservation, irrigation, navigation, recreation, and hydro power was an afterthought. Since land was taken from the people to build the dams, the thought was that the power should be given back to the people at cost, not to a private power company that could earn money for stockholders.

During the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt pledged a New Deal for the American people. At that time, countries around the world had various levels of rural electric development. France and Germany were highly developed, rural New Zealand was 60 percent electrified, but the U.S. – which had miles upon miles of rural land – was only 10 percent developed. The rural Great Plains was only 3.5 percent electrified. A major obstacle to electrifying rural America was the lack of corporate profit for developing this area; specifically, the cost of building transmission lines for sparsely populated areas.

The time period from 1879–1929, the Age of Invention, saw new technologies (powered by electricity) advancing the country at a rapid pace. There was a great divide between rural and urban life. If you lived in the city you had electric lights, water pumps, washing machines, electric ovens and ranges, refrigeration, electric motors, radios, and all the modern technologies made life easier. But if you lived in the country, everything was harder, took more time, and was less efficient without electricity.


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