Pioneer Electric celebrates 85th anniversary

PIQUA — Pioneer Electric Cooperative is celebrating 85 years as a not-for-profit, member-owned electric distribution utility.

In the early to mid-1930s, rural residents all over the country were unable to obtain electric service for their homes and farms. It was very uncommon for investor-owned utility companies serving neighboring residential cities and towns to offer rural consumers electricity, because of the strong belief that they would not be profitable.

In 1935, with the help of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, Congress approved the passage and appropriation of a $100 million loan fund. Among the programs funded was electric service to rural areas.

On Nov. 14, 1935, 500 people gathered in Piqua to celebrate the groundbreaking and erection of the first electric cooperative pole in the nation. That pole would go on to support 193 miles of power line and bring electricity to 700 rural farms with the help of Miami Rural Electric Cooperative, Inc. The newly constructed lines served the three county cooperatives — Miami, Shelby and Champaign — which would merge six months later to become Pioneer Rural Electric Cooperative, Inc., a utility company owned by the people it served. It would be another six months after the initial pole setting that the first home, electrified by Pioneer, would see the lights come on.

“We are thankful to be celebrating 85 years of providing electric service to our area,” Pioneer President and CEO Ron Salyer said. “We have a deep appreciation for our membership and the strong trustees, leadership, and employees who have helped shaped Pioneer along the way.”

The formation of the electric cooperative ultimately made the rural way of life easier, from making daily tasks more efficient to simply having light when it would otherwise be dark. That innovative spirit is not only a part of the co-op’s past but continues to play a role in the way Pioneer operates today.

Pioneer was an early tester and adopter of the radio-controlled load management program as well as the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system. The SCADA system, which monitors and controls field devices remotely, was implemented in 1987 and continues to be a valuable tool today. Consistently being on the progressive edge of technology, compared to other cooperatives, has provided Pioneer the opportunity to have input on software distributed to other cooperatives throughout the country.

Throughout the past 85 years, Pioneer has built a tradition of providing safe, high quality, and responsive service to nearly 17,000 members in its primary territory of Champaign, Miami, and Shelby counties, as well as portions of the eight surrounding counties. The cooperative is headquartered in Piqua and has a district facility in Urbana.

“Our mission has always been to provide safe, high quality, reliable electric service to our member-consumers,” Salyer said. “We continue to hold Pioneer to a high standard, which is what our members expect and deserve.”