Electric Co-op Story
The History of SMPA
Rural Electrification Act
Unreliable, intermittent power and the refusal of electric service were not uncommon for rural areas in the early 1900's. Under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) was established to combat these issues.
San Miguel Power Association Established
San Miguel Power Association, Inc. was established in 1938 for the purpose of supplying central station power to the rural farms and dwellings in the San Miguel Basin area, after these same people were denied service by Western Colorado Power.
SMPA went into loan negotiations with REA which resulted in a $5 membership fee for the citizens of Nucla, CO. The first membership was purchased by George Wilson, who went on to serve on the SMPA Board of Directors as the Secretary for almost two decades.
As a newly formed rural electric cooperative, SMPA confronted many obstacles. Western Colorado Power, SMPA's power provider at that time, sold limited amounts of electricity to the coop - only 90 kilowatts. Today, that would power just three all electric homes.
Seeking More Power
By 1950, Western Colorado Power finally agreed to sell SMPA all the power it needed to serve their members and the two large mills in the area that were processing uranium and vanadium.
Times were tough for Western Colorado Power however, and the company struggled with tremendous maintenance problems because of their rugged mountain territory.
New Producer: Colorado Ute
Many times, the company was unable to provide enough energy for SMPA. This opened the door for a new power producer - Colorado Ute Electric Association. They constructed new generation plants in the San Miguel Basin area.
Western Colorado Power had reached a low point and eventually merged with Utah Power and Light. Stipulations in the merger forced Utah Power and Light to sell parts of Western Colorado Power's territory. SMPA purchased the areas around Telluride, Rico, Ouray, Silverton, Ridgway and Colona. These areas included some of the most rugged and hazardous country in the United States. From the start, SMPA worked to upgrade the poorly maintained mountain lines to improve reliability to their members.
New Producer: Tri-State G&T
Colorado Ute claimed bankruptcy. The company was then acquired by Tri-State Generation and Transmission, who took control of all of Colorado Ute's major assets including the lease of Craig Power Station Unit 3 and the 100-megawatt Nucla Power Station. Approximately, 675 former Colorado Ute employees and 10 new member systems joined the Tri-State association. SMPA was one of these member systems and still is today.
The Legacy of Light - 75 Year History of San Miguel Power Association
If you would like to read the in-depth 75-year history of San Miguel Power Association. Fill in the form below to access our 75th Anniversary history book.
SMPA is a Touchstone Energy Cooperative
(What does that mean?)
Touchstone Energy is the national brand identity for the extensive electric cooperative network. All members exemplify high standards of service because they uphold the four core values of integrity, accountability, innovation and commitment to community. Touchstone Energy co-ops simply put members first and always have a local, member-driven, community focused vision.
Across the country, local Touchstone Energy co-ops work to improve members’ quality of life by taking a leadership role in community and economic development projects, forging strong partnerships with business members, as well as generously donating time, energy and resources to their local communities. The Touchstone Energy logo means the cooperative understands the power of human connections and is the power of a national network, working in your neighborhood.
Touchstone Energy Cooperatives are:
- Part of the largest electric utility network in the nation
- Total more than 700 local systems
- Serve more than 30.5 million distribution cooperative member-owners
- Serve nearly 40 generation and transmission cooperatives
SMPA is a member of the Colorado Rural Electric Association (CREA)
The Colorado Rural Electric Association represents and serves Colorado’s 22 electric cooperatives that distribute electricity to members like you. It is the statewide service organization representing Colorado’s electric distribution cooperatives and generation and transmission cooperative.
CREA was organized in 1945 to provide a variety of services to its member cooperatives. Through CREA, the individual cooperatives share in the advantages of a larger utility operation, but control and ownership is maintained at the local level.
Some of the services and programs offered by CREA include:
- Legislative Support
- Safety Training and Loss Control
- Education Programs
In total, CREA’s member cooperatives serve nearly 1.5 million rural electric consumers in Colorado. Co-ops have built a system that includes nearly 80,000 miles of power lines and employs more than 2,500 people. Co-op service territory covers over 70% of the landmass of Colorado.
Today, those electric co-ops are a vital part of local communities across Colorado and continue to provide the even more vital electricity to their member-owners — all with assistance and cooperation from the Colorado Rural Electric Association.
SMPA is a member of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA)
We Power 1 in 8 Americans
From booming suburbs to remote rural communities, America’s electric cooperatives are energy providers and engines of economic development. Electric cooperatives play a vital role in transforming communities.
As the national service organization that represents America’s electric cooperatives, NRECA works to empower co-ops and to help ensure their long-term success in a number of ways:
- Amplifying the voice of co-ops and their consumer-members in Washington, D.C.
- Working with elected officials to keep electricity safe, reliable and affordable.
- Helping the employees of electric co-ops learn and grow professionally.
- Promoting the cooperative business model and the benefits of co-op membership.
- Researching and communicating with NRECA voting members regarding legal tax, environmental and other issues.
- Spearheading programs to strengthen co-ops and their communities, such as advocacy campaigns and workforce development initiatives.