Prior to the late 1930s, even though cities like St. Louis had been benefitting from electricity for many years, those living in the surrounding countryside were still forced to depend on kerosene lamps for light, coal for heat, and scrub boards to clean clothes. In 1935, President Franklin Roosevelt instituted the Rural Electrification Administration to provide low-interest loans to help bring power to unserved areas in the country. In response, rural leaders throughout Illinois went from farm to farm to discuss the possibility of rural electrification and to sign up members of a new cooperative venture that would aid farmers and housewives in their work.
It was in April 1938 that the farmers of Monroe County voted to organize the Monroe Electric Co-Operative, Inc. - a nonprofit corporation in the state of Illinois. The first loan of $175,000 was approved by the Rural Electrification Administration(REA) in September. One month later, the first 175 miles of distribution line, serving 383 members, were energized at what is now known as the Waterloo substation. The first years of MCEC were devoted to extending electric power to the unserved portions of rural areas in Monroe, Randolph, and St. Clair counties.
Today, MCEC maintains about 1,200 miles of distribution and transmission electric line serving more than 6,700 local farms, homes and businesses with dependable electric power. MCEC is one of 26 consumer-owned electric cooperatives in Illinois and more than 900 across the nation.
MCEC is an electric power distribution system solely owned and controlled by the members it serves. It is a private enterprise business because it is neither owned by the general public nor by the government. All revenues, over and above the cost of doing business each year, are allocated to the members under a plan called "capital credits."