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Most farms in the U.S. today have power, and many get their current from small, consumer-owned rural electric cooperatives. But in the 1930s, only 10 percent of these farms were connected to the electricity grid. During the New Deal era, a system of electricity cooperatives was established, and through the sharing of resources, the nation’s rural communities were electrified. Within a few decades, roughly 90 percent of farms in the U.S. were connected to the electricity grid. The same grid exists today, but it is badly in need of an upgrade.

Explore the timeline below to view key moments in the history of rural electricity cooperatives in the U.S., and learn how electricity cooperatives are now paving the way for a renewable future in the country.

Header image of setting R. E. A. poles by Newberry County Electric Cooperative, Inc., to extend current to more rural families. Record created by U.S. Department of Agriculture, photo via Wikimedia Commons

Kevin Stark


Kevin Stark

Kevin Stark is a journalist with Chicago's Data Reporting Lab. His focus is environment, energy, and climate change, and he has written about sea level rise, industrial pollution, environmental justice, global climate research,