The city of Crete formed the state’s first electric department in 1887, about the same time farmers in western Nebraska were devising ways to store water for their irrigation needs.
By the early 1930s, Nebraska had several hundred municipal utilities and 42 shareholder-owned electric companies. Several large hydropower projects were being built. In 1933, the Nebraska Legislature created the state statutes that govern public power districts, and between 1934 and 1946, investor-owned utilities were absorbed by public power districts.
George Norris, a U.S. Senator and Congressman from Nebraska, believed government should serve the needs of the ordinary citizens and electricity was a right of the people. As a senator, Norris (1861-1944) helped create the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Rural Electrification Act, Nebraska’s Unicameral, and the state’s public power system. He understood that local ownership led to electricity that was more reliable and less expensive compared to electricity produced and delivered by shareholder-owned utilities seeking to profit from the service. His wisdom and commitment to improving the lives of America’s working men and women is evident today in every farm light, production line, home, business, and computer work-station.