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Georgia's electric cooperatives began in 1936 as part of the New Deal's promise to bring electricity to rural areas. Although electricity in major cities began in the 1880s, most rural areas in Georgia and other states were in the dark until the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) came about. The REA gave low-interest loans and helped families pool their resources to obtain electricity. All of Georgia's 42 customer-owned electric membership cooperatives (EMCs) were established between 1936 and 1946, according to Georgia Electric Membership Corp. (GEMC), the cooperatives' association. Today, there are more than 900 electric co-ops in the Untied States.
Georgia's co-ops serve leadership roles in their communities. In addition to active roles in economic development and other civic affairs, some cooperatives provide Internet service, satellite television, geothermal heat pumps, security, natural gas, telephone service and other offerings.
For many years Georgia’s EMCs independently purchased power at wholesale rates from various power suppliers. This practice changed after the energy crisis in the 1970s, which saw severe fuel shortages and high prices. To obtain power at reasonable rates, 39 EMCs established in 1974 a separate not-for-profit cooperative called Oglethorpe Power Corp., bringing power generation and electric transmission to Georgia’s co-ops for the first time. Three EMCs near the Tennessee border receive these services from the Tennessee Valley Authority.
In response to deregulation and other industry trends, Oglethorpe was divided in 1997 into three not-for-profit organizations. Oglethorpe Power retained power generation. Georgia Transmission was established to manage electric transmission. Georgia System Operations Corp. became an operations services company, providing sales, marketing, utility asset monitoring and control, contracting, transaction, billing and other services.