In the 1930s as investor-owned utilities electrified the cities, rural America’s farmers and ranchers also needed power. The Rural Electrification Act of 1936 established the Rural Electrification Administration to make loans for furnishing electric energy to rural areas.
Our cooperative started in 1939 when the State of Montana approved the conversion of the Stillwater Rural Electrification Association in Absarokee, Montana to Beartooth Electric Cooperative, Inc. In 1940, the co-op awarded a contract to begin erecting power lines. At about the same time, BEC purchased the site of our first substation in Absarokee. We energized the substation and lines the following year. Four months later, we added a substation near Edgar, Montana. In 1942, we acquired the electric distribution system in the Town of Roberts and moved our office from Absarokee to Red Lodge, Montana.
Now a modern electric utility, BEC serves the rural areas of Stillwater, Carbon, and Sweetgrass counties in Montana and Park County, Wyoming. In 2016 BEC supplied electricity to 4,451 members with 5,977 meters. This power was supplied over 1,814 miles of line supported by 10 substations and crews in two primary locations. The co-op delivered about 5.2 million kilowatt hours per month with annual revenue from electric service exceeding $8.9 million.