History: About Wake Electric

Wake Electric Cooperative is a n electric distribution cooperative owned and controlled by thousands of people just like you—the consumer-members. Your co-op is a not-for-profit electric utility with a customer service center in downtown Wake Forest, Wake County at 100 S. Franklin Street.

Engineering and Operations are located at 228 Park Avenue, Youngsville. Wake Electric provides electric service to approximately 40,500 members in Durham, Franklin, Granville, Johnston, Nash, Vance, and Wake counties.

Background Information

Wake Electric was organized as a cooperative in 1940 and operates on a nonprofit basis, abiding by The 7 Cooperative Principles:

  1. Voluntary and Open Membership
    Cooperatives are voluntary organizations, open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.
  2. Democratic Member Control
    Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. Men and women serving as elected representatives are accountable to the membership. Members have equal voting rights – one member, one vote.
  3. Members’ Economic Participation
    Members contribute equally to, and democratically control, the capital of their cooperative. A cooperative business returns margins to their patrons. Any margins (or profits) are credited to each member’s capital credit account. Each member’s share of the capital credits for the year depends on the amount each individual paid into the cooperative during that year and on the total margins of the cooperative for the year. Capital credits are retained for a number of years and the money is used as operating capital. Retaining capital credits reduces borrowing needs. Capital credits are paid to all people who were members in a certain year. Each year members receive a notice showing the amount of capital credits that have been credited to their account for the past year.
  4. Autonomy and Independence
    Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If they enter into agreements with other organizations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their cooperative autonomy.
  5. Education, Training, and Information
    Cooperatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperatives. They inform the general public about the nature and benefits of cooperatives.
  6. Cooperation Among Cooperatives
    Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, national, regional, and international structures.
  7. Concern for Community
    While focusing on member needs, cooperatives work to improve the quality of life in the areas they serve.

Wake Electric is governed by a nine-member Board of Directors representing seven single-member geographic districts and two at-large districts throughout the service area. Directors are elected at-large for rotating three-year terms at the cooperative’s annual meeting.

While some of the service area remains rural, much has become suburban as the Raleigh-Durham and Research Triangle Park metropolitan areas have expanded.


Why rural electrification?

As late as the mid-1930s, nine out of ten rural homes were without electric service. The farmer milked his cows by hand in the dim light of a kerosene lantern. His wife was a slave to the wood range and washboard.

The unavailability of electricity in rural areas kept their economies entirely and exclusively to agriculture. Factories and businesses, of course, preferred to locate in cities where electric power was easily acquired.

Even as late as July 1935, a group of utility company executives wrote a report in which they claimed that, in light of their earlier extensive research work, “there are very few farms requiring electricity for major farm operations that are not now served.”workingtogether

This was a statement that was later to haunt the commercial electric industry when the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) and the rural electric cooperatives proved how mistaken this concept was. For many years, however, power companies continued to ignore the rural areas of the nation, except where there were conditions necessary to assure early profits.

The first official action of the federal government pointing the way to the present rural electrification program came with the passage of the Tennessee Valley Act (TVA) in May 1933. This act authorized the TVA Board to construct transmission lines to serve “farms and small villages that are not otherwise supplied with electricity at reasonable rates.”

The idea of providing federal assistance to accomplish rural electrification gained ground rapidly when President Roosevelt took office in 1933 and began his New Deal programs.

On May 11, 1935, Roosevelt signed Executive Order No. 7037 establishing the REA. It was not until a year later that the Rural Electrification Act was passed, and the lending program that became the REA got underway.

Within four years following the close of the war, the number of rural electric systems in operation doubled, the number of consumers connected more than tripled, and the miles of energized line grew more than five fold. By 1953, more than 90 percent of U.S. farms had electricity.

Today about 99 percent of the nation’s farms have electric service. Most rural electrification is the product of locally owned rural electric cooperatives that got their start by borrowing funds from REA to build lines and provide service on a nonprofit basis. Today the REA is the Rural Utilities Service and is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

After almost 60 years, REA was abolished by a massive reorganization of the Department of Agriculture in 1994. Its responsibilities were transferred to a new agency, the Rural Utilities Service (RUS). The electric loan program continues to operate much as it did under REA.

An important part of the history of electric cooperatives has been the development of power marketing agencies (PMAs).

In 1937, the federal government established the first PMA, the Bonneville Power Administration. The government then went on to form four more PMAs to market the power generated at 133 federal dams across the country. Today there are three PMAs in addition to Bonneville: Southeastern Power Administration; Southwestern Power Administration; and Western Area Power Administration.

The federal law that governs PMAs gives preference in the sale of power at-cost to public bodies and electric cooperatives. The availability of low-cost power to electric cooperatives has promoted economic development and has offset the cost of serving sparsely populated areas.