Electric Cooperative Timeline
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South Carolina's emergence from darkness into the 20th century was revolutionary. The electric cooperative revolution would deliver much more than electric power. Cooperatives fulfill the promise of an increasingly better quality of life for all South Carolinians.
1934 to 1939
Santee Cooper, the moniker for South Carolina Public Service Authority, has been a key player in the electric cooperative revolution. As the major power supplier to, and partner with, electric cooperatives, Santee Cooper is the state owned electric and water utility established on April 7, 1934.
Electrification was one of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s relief projects announced January 4, 1935, to help the nation recover from the Great Depression. The following April, Congress apportioned $100 million for the project, and the next month, Executive Order 7037 created the Rural Electrification Administration (REA).
At the request of Governor Olin D. Johnston, who had met with President Roosevelt, the South Carolina General Assembly in 1935 created the short-lived State Rural Electrification Authority. The agency’s mission was to extend lines from existing power companies to rural areas. The authority was shut down six years later, amid criticisms of overcharging consumers and limiting service.
South Carolinians knew they could get lights only by securing them on their own. They took the relief project into their own hands. The electric cooperative revolution was born.
County agents from Clemson Cooperative Extension Service were instrumental in telling consumers how to form and run their own not-for-profit electric cooperatives.
Seeds of the first electric cooperative in South Carolina sprouted during 1937, when people in Aiken County began meeting to learn how to get lights in their homes.
On February 15, 1938, Aiken Electric Cooperative became the first cooperative in South Carolina to receive its charter. The cooperative energized its first line on November 8, 1938 to begin providing electric service.
Governor Johnston signed the South Carolina Rural Electric Cooperative Act, 1939 (41) 240, Title No. 173, into law on May 4, 1939.
Seven new electric cooperatives were incorporated during 1939. Four of them were born in May and June of 1939: Laurens Electric Cooperative was incorporated May 12, 1939; Lynches River Electric Cooperative received its charter May 22, 1939; On June 9, 1939, Fairfield Electric Cooperative received its charter; and Edisto Electric cooperative was chartered on June 12, 1939.
Three more cooperatives saw their beginnings during December 1939: On December 14, 1939, Santee Electric Cooperative was incorporated. Marlboro Electric Cooperative was chartered on December 15, 1939; On December 18, 1939, Pee Dee Electric Cooperative received its charter.
On December 19, 1939, Laurens Electric Cooperative became the second cooperative in South Carolina to energize its first line.