While Rural Electrification Associations were being built, the Alberta government was still struggling with the key policy decision — should power generation and transmission be publicly owned, as the Power Commission had suggested, or should it be privately owned? This question was put to a plebiscite in 1948, and Alberta residents narrowly voted in favour of the private option. With the question settled, the government continued what the private electric companies had already been promoting — thus encouraging the formation of REAs.
The first Rural Electrical Association was formed in 1947. By 1951, there were 356 REAs operating. They were, and still are, governed under the Rural Utilities Act. The Act prevented Alberta electricity cooperatives from expanding outside of their specified sphere; they could only serve agriculture farms. The customer definition in the Rural Utilities Act was so specific that it prevented REAs from servicing some of their original farm customers when they expanded or diversified into different farming operations such as feedlots, greenhouses, and dairies.
Recent regulatory changes and legal clarifications now allows for REAs to expand service to industry and commercial operations, including oil & gas companies. In response to these changes, Blue Mountain Power Co-op has developed an extensive suite of services specifically designed for oil & gas companies to provide timely, efficient, and cost-effective construction and maintenance of industrial electric distribution infrastructure.