Nebraska is the only state in the U.S. served entirely by an electric power system which is owned and operated by its own citizens. There has not been a single privately-owned electric utility company in Nebraska since 1945.
Rural Nebraska in the 1930s was a landscape dotted with small towns and farmsteads that unfortunately, were living in the dark. While the life-changing power of electricity was available to many urban areas, most of rural America remained unserved because investor-owned utilities did not believe it was economically feasible to provide service in rural areas. Recognizing the need to provide electricity to the nation, federal legislation was passed to spur on the development of public power.
In Nebraska, electricity was needed to develop the agricultural economy through the use of irrigation. While several irrigation districts were formed in Nebraska in the early 30s they did not have funding to move forward until the U.S. Congress passed the Reconstruction Finance Corporation Act in 1932 that provided a source offunding for the fledgling irrigation districts.
In 1933 the Nebraska Legislature took advantage of this Act and passed Senate File 310 authorizing public power and irrigation districts to be formed as public corporations and political subdivisions of the state. This legislation paved the way for two of Nebraska's more recognizable traits, irrigation and public power.
It was 1936 when the U.S. Congress, led by Nebraska Senator George Norris, passed the Rural Electrification Act. The Act stipulated that power generation and delivery systems were to be owned by the public for the public good. While criticized by many as being a socialist, Norris believed that public power represented a way to ensure that every citizen was provided with reliable service at a reasonable price. Norris viewed every stream and river in America as a way to deliver reliable electricity to the nation.
Today, Nebraska's consumer-owned public power system is paying big dividends. Nebraska residents have reliable electricity with some of the lowest rates in the nation. In addition, control of this public asset is maintained at the local level. Local people, making decisions on behalf of their neighbors. That's what public power is about in Nebraska.