In the late 1930s and early 1940s, most rural people in North Dakota and the rest of the country lived without electricity. Power companies were convinced that they couldn't make any money by serving the rural countryside, so they declined to run power lines out to the country.
All across the country, including in North Dakota, rural people were banding together to help themselves by forming electric cooperatives. With the help of government loans through the Rural Electrification Administration (REA), electric cooperatives helped light the countryside. Two such cooperatives, Baker Electric Cooperative and Tri-County Electric Cooperative, were among them.
The consolidation of Baker Electric Cooperative (Cando) and Tri-County Electric Cooperative (Carrington) was approved in July of 1996. Both cooperatives operated as separate entities until Dec. 31, 1996. In January of 1997, Northern Plains Electric Cooperative was born. The first year proved to be a hard one, with record cold and snowfall. An ice and snow storm ravaged the service area on April 4-6 and caused over $3 million in damage, downing over 1,000 poles and causing outages to 8,000 accounts. Record flooding also plagued the area.
Geographically, Northern Plains is the largest electric cooperative in the state. It serves 8,167 members with 11,711 meters in a 50- to 70-mile-wide area from just south of Jamestown to the Canadian border. Thus, its service area is diverse and includes farm and residential accounts as well as commercial and industrial accounts. Fourty-two employees working from cooperative headquarters in Cando and Carrington, as well as several outposts all across the service area, strive to improve the rural quality of life by providing excellent service and community support.
On its 6,721 miles of line, Northern Plains distributes electricity supplied by Basin Electric Power Cooperative and Western Area Power Administration. It is a member of the North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. Northern Plains members provide input into the operation and management of the cooperative through a nine-member board of directors that are elected to three-year terms.
Northern Plains Electric Cooperative, like its predecessors, is dedicated to providing a reliable, affordable source of energy for its members.