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Rural Electrification Authority - History

Rural Electrification Authority - History



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Poster

The Rural Electrification Authority was established on May 11, 1935. It brought electricity to millions of farms in the United States.


The Rural Electrification Authority was established with the goal of bringing electricity to the American farm. When the R.E.A. was created, only 11% of the farms in the country had electricity. The R.E.A. provided long-term, low-cost loans to build distribution systems to get electricity to the farms. The Tennessee Valley Authority in the East, and Grand Coulee, and Boulder Dams in the West provided much of the actual electricity. By the beginning of World War II, 50% of American farms had electricity. At the end of the 1940s, the number of American farms equipped with electricity rose to 95%.


Rural Electrification Act

On May 20, 1936, Congress passed the Rural Electrification Act which was one of the most important pieces of legislation passed as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal. This law allowed the federal government to make low-cost loans to farmers who had banded together to create non-profit cooperatives for the purpose of bringing electricity to rural America.

Seventy-four years earlier to the day on May 20, 1862 President Abraham Lincoln signed the Homestead Act which offered free land for those willing to move to it and cultivate it.

Both of these Congressional Acts were created for the same purpose. President Abraham Lincoln when speaking to a Special Session of Congress on July 4, 1861 best explained that purpose when he said it was the purpose of our government "to elevate the condition of men-to lift artificial weights from all shoulders-to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all-to afford all, an unfettered start, and a fair chance, in the race of life."

The Homestead Act is one of the greatest examples of the U. S. government trying "to elevate the condition of men-to lift artificial weights from all shoulders-to give everyone a fair chance in the race of life."

In the 1930's U. S. Senator George Norris of Nebraska was concerned that the descendents of homesteaders and other people living in rural America were not getting a 'fair chance.' Norris lamented that in rural America the men and women were "growing old prematurely dying before their time conscious of the great gap between their lives and the lives of those whom the accident of birth or choice placed in towns and cities."

Norris and other senators and congressmen believed that access to electricity would revolutionize the rural way of life. Therefore, in 1936 Congress passed the Rural Electrification Act to give rural Americans a 'fair chance.'

On January 1, 1863, Daniel Freeman filed one of the nation's first homestead claims in Gage County, Nebraska. About seventy years later one of the first Rural Electrification Districts was created in Gage County, Nebraska.


Rural Electrification Act (1936)

The Rural Electrification Act (49 Stat. 1363) was one of the most important pieces of legislation during the era of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal. It allowed the federal government to make low-cost loans to non-profit cooperatives (farmers who had banded together) for the purpose of bringing electricity to much of rural America for the first time.

President Roosevelt set the stage for the act's passage on May 11, 1935, when he issued an executive order that created the Rural Electrification Administration (REA). The REA was part of a relief package designed to stimulate an economy still in the grip of the Great Depression. On May 20, 1936, Congress passed the Rural Electrification Act, making the REA's promise of long-term funding for rural electricity a reality. In particular, the act permitted the president to appoint an administrator for the REA who was

authorized and empowered to make loans in the several States and Territories of the United States for rural electrification and the furnishing of electric energy to persons in rural areas who [were] not receiving central station service . to make or cause to be made, studies, investigations, and reports concerning the condition and progress of electrification of rural areas in the several States and Territories and to publish and disseminate information with respect thereto.

The act addressed a serious need. When President Roosevelt created the REA, only 10 percent of rural Americans had electricity. This lack of power prevented farmers from modernizing their facilities. It also forced some people to live in unhealthful conditions. Many rural Americans, for example, lived in inadequately heated homes with poor sanitation. Most farmers had no running water and little means to store their food.

Nevertheless, privately owned utility companies, which provided power to most of the country, were not eager to serve the rural population. These companies argued that supplying rural areas with electricity was not profitable. The lack of attention from private companies led farmers to form non-profit cooperatives to implement electrification even before the REA. But, without the government's assistance, these organizations lacked the technical and financial expertise they needed to succeed.

Creation of the REA changed the way that cooperatives worked. Most significantly, the government aided farmers by granting their cooperatives low-cost loans. Through these loans, the cooperatives could acquire the necessary generation and distribution facilities to supply their farms with electrical power. The REA also helped farmers develop assembly-line methods for electrical line construction with uniform procedures and standardized types of electrical hardware. The result was that more and more rural Americans could afford electricity. By 1950, 90 percent of American farms had electricity.

On October 28, 1949, Congress made an important amendment to the Rural Electrification Act that permitted the further modernization of rural America. This amendment authorized the REA to make loans for the purpose of furnishing and improving rural telephone service.

The REA no longer exists in its original form. With the reorganization of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 1994, the REA became the Rural Utilities Service (RUS). In addition to helping provide rural areas with electric and telephone service, the RUS took over the USDA's water and sewage programs and helped more than 20,000 rural communities obtain modern water systems.

See also: Federal Powers Acts Tennessee Valley Authority Act.


Contributing Forces

In the early twentieth century most rural Americans were without electrical power at a time when most city dwellers had already begun to forget what life had been without it. Although this inequity was recognized early, many assumed that market forces would naturally lead to rural electrification without any government intervention. It was only when private enterprise clearly had failed to light the countryside that progressive activists succeeded in establishing an effective federal program that ultimately resulted in that accomplishment.

Adoption of Electrical Power in America

Thomas Edison designed and built the first central electrical power plant in the world in New York City in 1882. Early electrical systems were small, low-powered, and served small numbers of preferred customers. Importantly for practical reasons electric power was limited primarily to cities in the first decades. Even so, electrical systems sprang up very early in cities of all sizes across the United States. For example the first electrical power plant built in Eugene, Oregon, appeared in 1887, three thousand miles away from New York City but only five years later. Electric lights, another Edison invention, were the first use for electricity.

The use of electricity spread steadily in American cities, so that by the early 1920s, half of all urban homes were electrified, and all of those had at least some electric lights. Much of this development was done by private industry, although municipal utilities, publicly owned by city residents, played a major role as well. During the 1920s a large number of American homes, primarily those in the top 20 percent of the income scale, modernized through the adoption of such electrical inventions such as full electric lighting, appliances for heating and cooling, and power tools. By 1929 most electrified homes had electric irons, half had radios, more than a third had vacuum cleaners, and almost a third had clothes washers. By contrast as late as 1935 only 10 percent of U.S. farms were electrified. The benefits of electrical power for industry and homes were accepted facts by the 1920s. Cities had been served first because dense concentrations of many customers made producing and supplying power profitable to them. Unfortunately for those who lived outside of cities, power companies did not believe that there was much money to be made by delivering electricity to the countryside. Prospective customers were widely scattered and generally not well-to-do.

Early Efforts by Private Industry to Power the Countryside

Even before most people in cities had electrical service, private industry gave some thought to rural electrification. In 1911 the National Electric Light Association (NELA), representing the private power industry, discussed the subject at its annual meeting. A committee was appointed to ask the U.S. Department of Agriculture to print a special bulletin about uses of electricity on the farm and to request that the Census Bureau tally the number of farms already using electricity. No other action was taken to promote rural electric service, which was not surprising, because at that time electricity in rural areas was still considered a luxury.

In 1923 the NELA took another look at the matter and formed the Committee on the Relation of Electricity to Agriculture (CREA), a cooperative program with the American Farm Bureau Federation and state agricultural colleges. The strategy of the CREA was to demonstrate the many uses and advantages of electricity and thereby to convince the farmer to order the service. Campus farms financed by private power companies conducted experimental demonstrations of farm uses, including some large-scale experiments involving rural customers, and published the results in farm publications. These experiments were valuable in achieving technological progress and sharing the information with farmers, but they did not tackle the main obstacle confronting rural electrification, which was the cost of electricity. At that time, rates for electricity were highest for those who used the least amount, so farmers of modest means faced a significant cost hurdle unless they used, and could afford, larger amounts of electricity to bring the per-unit rate down. Not only that, but they would have to pay the cost of building the transmission lines to their farms, wiring their buildings, and buying the lights and electrical equipment, a significant investment. Few rural residents could afford to do that on their own, especially when it was not clear that they would increase their profits as a result.

Critics of the private power industry pointed out that cost was the primary obstacle to rural electrification. They urged more serious efforts to address this issue, including some sacrifice and a long-term perspective on the part of the power companies. They did not accept the private industry estimates of the cost of constructing power lines because they were unreasonably high. The power companies argued that they had to make a profit to stay in business and provide their service.

More About… Life on the Farm Without Electricity

Until electricity came to the countryside, life on the farm in its basic form had changed little since the Middle Ages. Farmers depended on tools that their ancestors had used for centuries or even for thousands of years, such as the wheel, the lever, the block and tackle, and the plow. Toil and drudgery were accepted as unavoidable companions. Power for most uses came from the muscles of people and their animals. Kerosene lamps and candles supplied illumination at night, so bedtime came not long after dusk.

Women cooked on wood stoves and washed clothes by hand outside on washboards in an outdoor kettle heated over a fire. One report indicated farmers' wives spent 20 days more each year washing clothes than city women who owned electric washers. Ironing clothes was particularly burdensome, requiring use of the "sad iron" heated on a wood stove. Most people had no indoor plumbing or toilets. Water for cooking and washing had to be hauled into the house in buckets from an outside well or a nearby stream. A U.S. Department of Agriculture study in 1919 reported that pumping and carrying water alone took an average of 10 hours per week for a family. Sanitation was poor as it was much work to clean the house let alone one's body.

Storing food was done in ways unchanged since ancient times. Farm families kept smokehouses, root cellars, and icehouses. Milk, butter, eggs, and fresh fruit were kept in a well or springhouse. Meat was dried, smoked, and salted. Food spoilage and lack of fresh produce caused numerous health problems such as dysentery from bacterial contamination and pellagra, resulting from vitamin deficiency, which caused chronic fatigue, skin lesions, and mental illness. Poor nutrition also caused problems in pregnancy that resulted in stillbirths, deformities, and impaired intelligence.

Gasoline engines became common on the farm after World War I (1914–1918). Gasoline-powered tractors made plowing much more efficient. Gasoline engines could pump water and even power an electrical generator to run a few lights. Automobiles made it much easier to deliver farm produce to market. Gasoline engines, tractors, and automobiles, however, were expensive and needed frequent repair.

Successful Rural Electrification Programs in Other Countries

American advocates of public power (electric power provided by public agencies or cooperatives) pointed to other countries as evidence that rural electrification under the right conditions could be accomplished quickly. Rural cooperatives in Europe and Canada had put some countries far ahead of the United States in electrifying rural areas. By 1930, in some countries, 90 percent of farms had electrical service compared to only 10 percent in the United States. A well-known case was Sweden, where rural cooperatives had formed to buy power from the state and distribute it among members. By 1936, 50 percent of Swedish farms were electrified. With large government subsidies to cooperatives, France had reached 71 percent electrification by 1930. The German government offered easy credit terms to cooperatives and reached the 60 percent level by 1927. Other examples were Finland (40 percent), Denmark (50 percent), Czechoslovakia (70 percent), and New Zealand (35 percent). Higher population densities in European rural areas made it less expensive to establish rural electrical systems than in the United States and people in other countries were more willing to accept government subsidy programs to help pay for it.

One of the most visible and successful foreign programs was just across the Canadian border, in Ontario, where the government helped pay the cost of transmission lines in rural areas and made loans to rural people for buying appliances. With this assistance, rural customers could more quickly increase their electrical usage and bring down the rates they had to pay. By the late 1920s, 27 percent of farms in southern Ontario were connected to the power grid, nearly three times the American average. This program encouraged rural electrification advocates in the United States and provided a model alternative to the American reliance on private industry to solve the problem. Private industry saw the Ontario program as a threat to their interests and strongly criticized it. Despite this criticism the Ontario experience influenced the state of Washington, with its plentiful hydroelectric power, to authorize rural Public Utility Districts in 1930. These districts were public agencies organized to distribute power in specific areas.

Opposing Visions: Giant Power Versus Super Power

The slow pace of rural electrification in the 1920s prompted action on the part of some important political leaders who regarded this as an issue of social justice rather than simply a matter of economics. One of these leaders was Pennsylvania Governor Gifford Pinchot, a well-known conservationist, who wanted to use the authority of the state to promote social welfare. He felt that the power companies were irresponsible in their electric rate structures and in their failure to provide service to rural areas. Encouraged by the examples of Ontario and the European countries, Pinchot wanted to establish a Pennsylvania statewide public power system that would rectify these problems. To study the issue and plan for such a system, he set up the Giant Power Board in 1923 and appointed as its director the former director of the Philadelphia Department of Public Works, Morris L. Cooke.

In 1914, in his position with the City of Philadelphia, Cooke filed suit against the Philadelphia Electric Company to lower its electric rates. The Philadelphia Electric Company was the power provider throughout the city and one of the country's largest power companies. At that time, Cooke knew very little about electrical engineering and had a very small staff. Nevertheless in 1916 Cooke won the case, securing a large out-of-court settlement for the city, and in the process developed a reputation as an innovative reformer. He was a natural choice for Pinchot and Giant Power.

The Giant Power concept was to bring electric power to every household in the state, urban as well as rural, at reasonable rates through a public approach rather than through reliance on private industry. Pinchot and Cooke paid special attention to rural residents, who had mostly been denied access to electricity. They also had grander goals: they assumed that what would work for Pennsylvania would also work for the United States as a whole, so they saw this as a critically valuable task. The Giant Power Board studied all aspects of electrical service, including farm service, city gas supply, water power development, mine-mouth electric generating plants (utilizing coal as fuel at the source rather than transporting it), public utility generation, high-voltage transmission, and other related matters. Planning emphasized total system design across the state rather than incremental growth based on increased sales. Cooke visited Wisconsin and Ontario to see examples of rural electrification programs. Projecting electric rates for rural areas, however, was a difficult problem. Cooke felt that rural rates could fall below city rates because farmers had more potential uses for electric power than city homes, but on that point his colleagues disagreed.

In February 1925 the Giant Power Board delivered its report to the Pennsylvania legislature with recommendations for legislation. The Board proposed strong state regulation and planned development of energy resources. It recommended creation of a new Giant Power Board to oversee the program. New generating plants would be located near coalmines and would also be required to recycle mining wastes. All transmission lines would be interconnected to facilitate the procurement and distribution of power across state lines, which would require the approval of Congress. The state Public Service Commission would have power over the activities of electric companies, even to the point of setting a standard valuation of $1.00 for each share of company stock. This was to create a basis for setting standard electricity rates. Power companies would have to justify why they should not serve particular areas. All potential customers in a given area, regardless of their projected usage, would have to be served. The plan recommended legislation permitting farmers to form electrical power cooperatives if companies refused to serve them. The Board assumed that private industry would do most of the line building and service providing.

The private utility industry strongly opposed the Giant Power proposals and developed a plan of its own to accomplish the same ends. Their proposal, called SuperPower, was national in scope and similar in many ways to Giant Power. It also proposed systematic development of energy resources, including even tidal power on the coastlines, and interconnecting distribution systems across the country for greater efficiency and the elimination of local shortages. Super-Power, however, called for no increase in the level of government regulation, leaving the state public utility commissions to oversee the companies as they had been but without exercising strong control. Regulation of share prices and the matter of rates were not mentioned. No plan was put forth to encourage rural electrification, which was considered important, but less so than providing for industry. Pinchot referred to SuperPower as designed to achieve "profit for the companies" and Giant Power as "a plan to bring cheaper and better electric service to all those who have it now, and to bring good and cheap electric service to those who are still without it" (Brown, p. 28).

An intense public debate, focusing on Giant Power and SuperPower, ensued about rural electrification. "Progressives" like Pinchot and Senator George Norris saw a need to establish social justice through government intervention in key areas, not only with regard to electrical power, but also labor, agriculture, conservation, and consumer rights. But the forces behind SuperPower were stronger and included then Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover, the banking and mining industries, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the private electric industry, and the press. This conservative force staunchly protected the prerogatives of free enterprise against government control. In the end the proposals of Giant Power were too bold to be passed in those times, and the legislature voted them down. The ideas behind SuperPower remained dominant and plans for bringing electrification to rural areas were pushed back.

Although the failure of Giant Power discouraged proponents of public rural electrification at that time, the Giant Power study and proposals were not forgotten. Their work spread recognition of the fact that farmers were potentially even greater users of electricity than city dwellers. It also made clear that areas with low population density might need assistance to receive electrical power because they could not afford to do it themselves. The Giant Power study also established Morris Cooke as the leading proponent of rural electrification, increasingly seen as an essential element in improving the lives of farm families. It would take a decade of time and an economic depression to change the conservative climate and make possible a government program that would achieve rural electrification. Later, when Cooke became Administrator of the Rural Electrification Administration (REA), Giant Power proposals formed the basis for REA policies. Cooke even brought some of the former Giant Power employees on board as the first REA staff members.


Until now, the collective generation capacity of all Pakistan’s five nuclear plants was roughly 1,350 megawatts, five percent of the national electricity generation. Four of the plants, also built with Chinese assistance, are located in Chashma in Mianwali district.

There are five operating nuclear power plants and two under construction in Pakistan. The nuclear power technology infrastructure and domestic workforce are poised to support the State’s nuclear power expansion programme of 8800 MW by the year 2030.


Rural Electrification

The first major effort to provide electricity to rural Arkansas began with the passage of the federal Rural Electrification Act in 1936, creating the Rural Electrification Administration (REA). The agency was one of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal programs to improve the economic condition of farmers hit hard by depression, flood, and drought. It provided twenty-five-year loans at three percent interest for constructing power lines in rural areas. With REA loans, farmers could afford to electrify their homes and farms. Electrified farms, officials believed, would improve farm incomes and raise farm standards of living.

Providing electricity to Arkansas farms and communities of fewer than 2,500 people was costly. Rural areas averaged fewer than five customers per mile of electric line, compared with an average of fifteen to twenty per mile in urban areas. To recoup the costs of building a line, and to make a profit, private utilities charged rural customers more per kilowatt hour than they charged urban residents. Because of the high rates, farmers used an average of forty kilowatt hours a month, while urban residents typically used at least 500. Low use by rural customers made it less profitable for private utility companies to serve them.

Before the Rural Electrification Administration, rural electric service was limited. In 1930, 2.1 percent of Arkansas farms had electricity. Most received it from central power stations such as those operated by Arkansas Power and Light (AP&L) or one of the state’s four other public utilities. Harvey Couch, Arkansas Power & Light president, understood that electrifying farms could raise farm incomes. AP&L had electrified the rice fields around Stuttgart (Arkansas County) by 1918. In 1935, Couch initiated a private-utility rural electrification program by building lines to Prattsville (Grant County) and Malvern (Hot Spring County). To encourage electricity use, AP&L was the first private utility in the country to offer a low-cost financing plan to wire rural homes and a monthly payment plan for buying appliances. The Rural Electrification Administration later adopted Couch’s financing plan, calling it the “Arkansas Plan.”

The federal government’s first experiment with rural electrification was the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), which began providing inexpensive electricity to rural residents of the Tennessee River valley in 1934. Through TVA, farmers throughout the South could see firsthand the benefits of using electricity to grind corn, milk cows, and perform other chores. Farm wives saw the benefits of electric water pumps, washing machines, irons, lights, and radios. TVA spurred increased demand in rural areas for inexpensive electricity.

The Rural Electrification Administration was created to meet that demand. To qualify for an REA loan, farm and community leaders had to organize an electric cooperative. In Arkansas, three electric cooperatives were incorporated by June 1937: First Electric Cooperative, serving parts of Lonoke, Prairie, and Pulaski counties Woodruff Electric Cooperative, serving parts of Woodruff County and Farmers Electric Cooperative, serving parts of Jackson County. Four more cooperatives were incorporated later in 1937. First Electric energized an initial fifty-eight miles of line on April 15, 1938, after borrowing $190,000 from the REA to build 211 miles of line to serve 675 members. All seven of the 1937 cooperatives energized lines the next year. The last cooperative, Rich Mountain, was incorporated in 1945, for a total of eighteen cooperatives. By 1950, sixty-seven percent of the state’s farms had been electrified.

The rural electrification program had important state government and farm association sponsors. In 1937, Governor Carl E. Bailey signed into law Act 342 of the legislature to provide a legal basis for electric cooperatives to incorporate. Bailey also appointed Department of Public Utilities commissioners who were sympathetic to the rural electrification program. The department issued rulings that set an affordable wholesale rate for the cooperatives, opening the way for REA approval of loans to Arkansas cooperatives.

The Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation supported the rural electrification program by sponsoring REA cooperatives and putting local farm leaders in touch with the electrification agency. County extension agents from the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service (UACES) organized farmers, signed members to the co-ops, and reviewed the cooperatives’ plans for electrical lines.

The success of the Tennessee Valley Authority and the problem of negotiating affordable wholesale rates gave rise to discussions of forming an Arkansas Valley Authority. It never became a reality, but hydroelectric dams were constructed along the White and Ouachita rivers that provide affordable electricity to the cooperatives.

Today, seventeen electric cooperatives operate in Arkansas. These cooperatives, in turn, own—and are members of—two statewide cooperatives: Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas, which represents the cooperatives’ interests at the state level, and the Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation, which supplies wholesale electricity to the cooperatives.

Rural electrification fulfilled the promise of improving farm standards of living. Besides other benefits, the electrification of farms led to the growth of Arkansas’s poultry industry.

For additional information:
Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas. http://www.aeci.com/ (accessed June 9, 2016).

Brown, D. Clayton. Electricity for Rural America: The Fight for the REA. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1980.

———. “Hen Eggs to Kilowatts: Arkansas Rural Electrification.” Red River Valley Historical Review 3 (Winter 1978): 119–126.

Mary Suter
University of Arkansas Museum Collections


Corporate Philosophy

The Rural Electrification Authority (REA) is a statutory body created by an Act of Parliament No. 20 of 2003. REAs mandate is to provide electricity infrastructure to all rural areas using appropriate technologies in order to increase access, productivity and contribute to improved quality of life. REAs goal is to increase the electrification rate from 3% to 51% by 2030.

The Need

Rural Area's need

Statistics show that in rural areas access to modern sources of energy is as low as 3% of the rural population.

The Inception

The REA's reaction to the need

The Authority developed its first strategic plan in 2006 as a starting point for the effective implementation of the short, medium and long term goals.

Our VALUES

The Board, management and staff of REA commit themselves to the following values and ethos that will govern their behavior in discharging their mandate. The Rural Electrification Authority shall hold dear the following values and standards in the conduct of its business:

In discharging its functions, Management and staff will find themselves in situations where they may have to make decisions that bind the Authority. Management and staff will always practice the highest ethical standards and honour and treat all stakeholders fairly with openness and appropriate etiquette.

Transparency
In the procurement of goods, services and works, executive decision making, transparency will be central to all the processes guiding Board, Management and Staff. As such all decisions made will be guided by verifiable objective criteria. All members of staff will be availed the code of ethics as a reference point to guide them in their behaviour.

Innovativeness
In implementing the mission, the Management and staff will always look for the innovative ways of meeting the needs of stakeholders. The REA Team commits itself to the culture of continuous improvement. The Management and staff are committed to achieving the highest levels of performance through promoting a culture of innovation and ever-learning organisation.

Environmentalism
Environmental concerns are essential to our decision making, and we are committed to protecting, enhancing, and improving the environment. This will be achieved through conserving natural resources, eliminating pollution and hazardous substances, historic preservation, and preventing the extinction of plant and animal species. We strive to improve our environmental impact on the earth and its resources.

Accountability
In the utilisation of resources, the Board and Management will be guided by the principles of responsibility and good governance and deal with various stakeholders in an equitable and transparent manner in order to meet stakeholder expectations. The Board will submit the Annual Report and audited financial statements to Parliament as a statutory body,three (3) months after year-end.

Team work
The mandate of REA requires employees to discharge their functions in multi-disciplinary teams. In order to promote team spirit, Management and staff will promote the culture of working in teams in discharging various roles in implementing annual work plans.


Rural Electrification Authority - History

Our GOAL

To increase the access to electricity in rural areas from the current 3% to 51% by the year 2030.

MISSION

To facilitate access to electricity in rural areas in order to contribute to enhanced living standards.

Vision

A Provider of sustainable electrification for all rural communities.

Technologies Used

To be a part of the electricity deficit solution in Zambia using appropriate technologies.

Solar Power

From inception, the Authority has undertaken a total of 423 stand-alone Solar Home System projects at various public and . Read More

Mini Hydro Power

Mini-Hydro power has high potential in Zambia in North Western, Northern, Luapula and Eastern provinces. The Authority . Read More

Grid Extension

The Rural Electrification Authority commenced implementation of rural elecrification projects in 2006. These projects . Read More

Wind Energy

The Authority commenced wind assessment in Lunga District in Luapula province in 2017. Lunga district has been . Read More

Useful Statistics

The REA is mandated by an Act of Parliament to provide electricity infrastructure in rural areas of Zambia


Rural electrification

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Rural electrification, project implemented in the United States in the second quarter of the 20th century by the Rural Electrification Administration (REA), a federal agency established in 1935, under the New Deal, in an effort to raise the standard of rural living and to slow the extensive migration of rural Americans to urban centres more than 98 percent of the United States’ farms were equipped with electric power under the program.

The REA provided low-interest loans to farm cooperatives for the construction and operation of power plants and power lines in rural areas. Rural electrification brought city conveniences, such as electric lighting and radio, to areas of low population density and allowed for the automation of a number of farm operations.

Although rural electrification did contribute to bridging the gap between urban and rural life, it did not succeed in checking the movement of farm workers to cities the application of technical innovations, in fact, acted to increase productivity per man-hour and to replace hand labour with automation and mechanization.


Rural Electrification Act (1936)

Signed by President Roosevelt on May 20, 1936, the Rural Electrification Act enabled the federal government to “make loans…for rural electrification and the furnishing of electric energy to persons in rural areas who are not receiving central station service.” To administer the loans and monitor the progress of rural electrification, the act established the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) as a permanent agency after it had first been created by an executive order in 1935 [1]. (See our summary of the Rural Electrification Administration for more information).

The main impetus behind the Rural Electrification Act was that private power companies were either unwilling or unable to create an energy infrastructure in sparsely populated areas at a reasonable cost (the same kind of problem that led to the creation of the U.S. Postal Service after the American Revolution). So, instead of waiting for some undetermined future time where private power companies might change their hands-off policy, New Deal policymakers decided to bring electric power to rural America immediately.

The Rural Electrification Act provided that loans be made for “generating plants, electric transmission and distribution lines” and for the “installation of electrical and plumbing appliances” in homes. Loans were to be made to individuals, corporations, states, non-profit cooperatives (“co-ops”), and others, on terms favorable to the borrower – for example, interest rates were tied to the federal government’s low borrowing rates [2].

The results of the Rural Electrification Act were – and are –immense: almost all small towns and rural areas have been completely electrified tens of millions of Americans “across 80 percent of the nation’s land mass” are served by electricity co-ops and the co-ops have developed many engineering and administrative innovations [3].


About this project

Reporter Rick Barrett spent the 2020-21 academic year as an O'Brien Fellow in Public Service Journalism at Marquette University examining the challenges facing rural Wisconsin. He was assisted by student researchers Christopher Miller and Kelli Arseneau.

All work on the project was done under the guidance of Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editors. Marquette University and administrators of the program played no role in the reporting, editing or presentation of this project.


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