Who Is CREA and Who Are Colorado’s Electric Cooperatives?

The Colorado Rural Electric Association neither generates nor distributes electricity. CREA represents and serves Colorado’s 22 electric cooperatives that do distribute electricity and Tri-State Generation and Transmission, which generates the electricity for 18 of the state’s 22 co-ops. (Four member co-ops purchase their electricity from Xcel Energy.)

In total, CREA’s member cooperatives serve nearly a million and a half rural electric consumers in Colorado. Co-op service territory covers over 70 percent of the landmass of Colorado, reaching all four corners of the state and serving all or a portion of every county except Denver City and County.

Electric co-ops are not-for-profit businesses owned by those to whom they provide electricity.

Anyone within the co-ops’ certificated service territory is eligible for electric service regardless of race, sex, national origin, religious and/or political affiliation.

In Colorado, electric co-ops have built a system that includes nearly 80,000 miles of powerlines and employs more than 2,500 people. Each of the 22 distribution co-ops is unique.

Some serve mountain territories and provide the power for ski lifts and snowmaking. Others serve the plains where they provide electricity for irrigation, farming and ranching. The state’s smallest co-op serves just over 3,000 meters. The state’s largest co-op serves nearly 150,000 meters and is growing. Some co-ops serve oil and gas development; other serve some of the poorest counties in the country.

On average, Colorado co-ops have only 7.9 members per mile of line, compared to investor-owned utilities such as Xcel Energy, which average 34 customers per mile of line, and municipal utilities, which average 48 customers per mile of line.

Electric co-ops were formed in the 1930s — with the first Colorado co-op being established in 1936 — because 90 percent of the farms and ranches in the U.S. did not have the electricity available in towns and cities. 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.