The History of Electric Cooperatives in Tennessee


Electricity was available in many of America’s larger cities, but electrification of rural areas was deemed unfeasible.

Early 1930s

For-profit power companies considered it unprofitable to build lines in sparsely populated rural areas. Without electricity, the economies of rural areas were tied exclusively to agriculture.

May 18,1933

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Tennessee Valley Authority Act with created a federal agency to provide river navigation, flood control, electric generation, fertilizer manufacturing, and economic development in the Tennessee Valley.

May 11, 1935

President Roosevelt created the Rural Electrification Administration, which made federal funds available to provide rural electric service. Existing power companies expressed little interest, so the leaders of farm organizations proposed the formation of nonprofit electric cooperatives.


Tennesseans formed 23 electric cooperatives to bring electricity to rural areas.


Post-war enthusiasm and adaptations of military technology, materials and equipment propelled rapid growth of rural electrification. By the 1950s, the Tennessee Valley Authority had become the nation’s largest energy supplier.


Tennessee’s 23 electric cooperatives provide energy for 2.5 million Tennesseans across 71 percent of Tennessee’s landmass. Co-ops rely on the latest technology to efficiently and reliably serve one in three Tennessee homes.