Investor-owned electric utilities would not , or could not extend their electric lines into the rural areas. Their reasons: It would require too much investment, for farmers to only use a few kilowatts per month for lights. They thought they would not make any money selling power to that kind of customer.
Farmers knew better. They knew if there was an adequate supply of low cost power they could produce even more food and fiber on their farms. Greater production could lower the cost of the crops, saving everyone in the long run. Unfortunately, only a few farms were able to get electric service in the early 1930’s. Those who did, had to pay high rates for each kilowatt-hour of power.
The answer to this “energy crisis” dawned on May 11, 1935. In an effort to fulfill the objectives of government “doing for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but could not do for themselves in their separate individual capacities”. By the urging of Congress, the President of the United State issued an Executive Order, Number 7037, which established the Rural Electrification Administration (REA). REA was authorized to act as a banker for responsible organizations willing to take over the task of getting electricity into rural homes.
By the end of 1935, it was apparent the investor owned electric companies were not going to take the initiative in applying for loans designed to extend electric service to all rural people.
It became evident that if there were going to be lights in rural America, the farmers and other rural residents would have to do it themselves. The enactment of the Rural Electrification Act of 1936 by Congress gave birth to the idea of using cooperatives as a means of bringing power to the countryside.
With the promise of low interest loans (loans not grants), farm leaders and groups such as the Oklahoma Farm Bureau, Oklahoma Farmer’s Union, and Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service visited farm after farm to sign up members who would form electric cooperatives.
The pioneers of the rural electrification program in southeastern Oklahoma worked long and hard to build a consumer-owned and controlled electric utility to provide themselves with the electric power they so desperately needed. Their efforts often met strong opposition, not only from the investor-owned utilities, but also form skeptical landowners.
However, the fruits of their efforts paid off on October 4, 1939. Four long years after signing of the Executive Order, Southeastern Electric Cooperative (SEC) was ready to begin building line and received its first load of poles. The task had begun and is still continuing today.
Now, nearly 75 years later, SEC is serving more than 14,000 commercial, industrial, farm and residential installations in five counties. The cooperative’s headquarters is located in Durant. Nine directors elected from the membership determine major policies of SEC and hire a General Manager to conduct the day-to-day business and carry out board policies.