Rural Electrification Act
The funding was channeled through cooperative electric power companies, most of which still exist today. These member-owned cooperatives purchased power on a wholesale basis and distributed it using their own network of transmission and distribution lines. The Rural Electrification Act was also an attempt made by FDR's New Deal to deal with the crippling amount of unemployment.
At the time the Rural Electrification Act was passed, electricity was commonplace in cities but largely unavailable in farms, ranches, and other rural places. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt issued Executive Order 7037 on May 11, 1935, establishing the Rural Electrification Administration. It was proposed by Representative John E. Rankin and Senator George William Norris. The act was signed into law by Roosevelt.
In the 1930s, the provision of power to remote areas was not thought to be economically feasible. A 2300 volt distribution system was then used in cities. This relatively low voltage could only be carried about 4 miles before the voltage drop became unacceptable.
REA cooperatives used a 6900 volt distribution network, which could support much longer runs (up to about 40 miles). Despite requiring more expensive transformers at each home, the overall system cost was manageable.
Wiring homes and farms
REA crews travelled through the American countryside, bringing teams of electricians along with them. The electricians added wiring to houses and barns to utilize the newly available power provided by the line crews. A standard REA installation in a house consisted of:
- A 60 amp range circuit
- A 20 amp kitchen circuit
- Two or three 15 amp lighting circuits
A ceiling-mounted light fixture was installed in each room, usually controlled by a single switch mounted near a door. At most, one outlet was installed per room, since plug-connected appliances were expensive and uncommon. Wiring was performed using type NM nonmetallic sheathed cable, insulated with asbestos-reinforced rubber covered with jute and tar.
Many of these installations still exist today, though most have been augmented to support a greater number and variety of appliances.
Some amendments to the Rural Electrification Act include:
- 1944 - loan terms increased to 35 years, the act is made permanent
- 1949 - extended the act to allow loans to telephone companies wishing to extend their connections to unconnected rural areas
- December 8, 1993 - "North American Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act" - The "Buy American" provision to now include Mexico and Canada.
- Rural Electrification Act. Ohio History Central.
- Full text of the original Rural Electrification Act of 1936
- Rural Electrification Act of 1936 With Amendments as Approved through December 31, 2000