Electric Cooperatives Serving Us (7/17)

BY LINDA SEAMON / JULY 2017

When we flick a switch, push a button or now, give a command, electricity is taken for granted. Only when it goes out do we give much thought to the source.

Electric street lights were first introduced in Gettysburg in 1893, supplied by the power plant on the corner of North Washington and Railroad Street. Electricity for private residences, and then only for illumination, would not be available until World War I.

Rural folks, who could not afford the private company charge and who depended on wind or gas generators, would have to wait at least 50 more years to get electrified. It would not be until President Franklin Delano Roosevelt created the federal Rural Electrification Administration in 1935, followed two years later by the Pennsylvania Rural Electric Act, that would enable Pennsylvania to receive loans to establish a Rural Electric Cooperative. This will be the genesis of the Adams Electric Cooperative that will serve rural Adams County.

How do corporations and cooperatives differ?

First of all a corporation is a privately-held company, has stockholders and is a for-profit operation. When first started the private power companies charged anywhere from $1,300 to $3,000 to lay a mile of wire. A high monthly fee on top of that put electricity out of the reach of a majority of rural dwellers.

A cooperative is a members-owned enterprise; the profits being shared after costs are covered. Cooperatives have been around since 1787 when Benjamin Franklin founded The Fire Insurance Cooperative in Philadelphia, still in operation today. There are over 48,000 cooperatives providing a variety of services and products.

The cooperative finally allowed farmers to become electrified. Farmers shared costs and besides the luxury of electricity they shared the profits. It was not just the farmers who would benefit from this but their rural neighbors as well. All of us who enjoy country living can thank our farmers who not only supply us with produce and dairy products but also helped bring power into our homes.

Adams Electric Cooperative was incorporated in 1940, supplying power since 1942. Familiar local names like Black, Keefer, Dunbar, Kohler, Wolf, Weikert, Rohrbaugh and Smith served on the first board of directors. Each director represented one of the nine zones and set the policies of the cooperative. Today this cooperative serves over 32,000 members in five counties – Adams, Cumberland, Franklin, Perry and York.

The Adams Electric Cooperative contributes to the economy with jobs and affordable electric service. Because it is locally owned and controlled it contributes to our quality of community life thru donations to many local organizations. The Adams County Historical Society monthly program is one of them.

Since 1942, the Pennsylvania Rural Electric Association (PREA) has 14 cooperative members (of which Adams Electric is a member) and today supplies more than 600,000 customers in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Representing their members and working with elected officials both State and Federal PREA insures the concerns of rural citizens are addressed in legislature activity. Penn Lines, a monthly publication helps bring rural issues to its members. PREA ensures Cooperative members receive the best in training and safety. It also helps members keep up with the energy business nationally.

For 75 years Adams Electric has not only supplied power but has been a committed member of the community. An example of what a Cooperative truly represents.

Linda Seamon is on the Cumberland Township Historical Society editorial board and a board member of the CTHS.