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American Public Power Association turning 80

July 27, 2020 | Jason Kuiper | industry, public power
public power utilities

Public power’s long, proud history of serving customers and powering their lives dates back to the formation of the first public utility in 1881.

In October, the American Public Power Association (APPA) will celebrate a milestone when it turns 80 years old. OPPD is a member of APPA, the service organization that represents the common interests of its member organizations.

Public power serves 49 million people in 49 states. Nebraska is the only state served entirely by public power, characterized by low prices, high reliability and local control.

Proud history

According to APPA, more than 2,000 public power utilities have been established since the first one was formed in Butler, Mo.

Most were created in the first 50 years of electrification in America. Many more formed concurrently with APPA’s founding following the formation of the Tennessee Valley Authority and other New Deal initiatives. A proud few have navigated through municipalization in recent years after decades of cooperative and investor-owned utility service, according to APPA president and CEO Joy Ditto, in an opinion piece published by Public Power magazine.

Public power utilities have helped the nation navigate some monumentally difficult times, from the Spanish flu of 1917 and 1918 through two world wars. The Second World War coincided with the formation of the APPA.

While the 1930s saw the need to electrify the last miles of rural America and electricity becoming an essential service, it also highlighted the need for a unified public power presence in Washington D.C. There was also a need for a community of public power utilities that would support each other and their communities.

On Oct. 29, the certificate of incorporation was signed in Washington D.C. It listed the first 15 board members representing public power utilities across the country. When the United States entering WWII a year later, public power utilities played an integral part. They worked to power the infrastructure – factories, aluminum smelters, mines and docks – that helped the Allies win the war.

And now a new challenge is facing the country and world – the COVID-19 pandemic. With electricity such an integral part of customers’ lives, reliable and low-cost energy is more important than ever to help people work or learn from home and stay safe during the pandemic.

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About Jason Kuiper

Jason Kuiper joined OPPD as a communications specialist in 2015. He is a former staff writer and reporter at the Omaha World-Herald, where he covered a wide range of topics but spent the majority of his career covering crime. He is a graduate of the University of Nebraska at Omaha and has also appeared in several true crime documentary shows. In his free time he enjoys cooking, spending time with his wife and three children, and reading crime novels.

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