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Our History

Our History

Anchorage's population boomed during World War II. Among other things, the rapid growth in population strained utility services and the city declined to extend electric service beyond the city limits. In 1947, a group of residents in areas outside the formal city boundaries met to discuss forming an electric cooperative.

Chugach was incorporated in Alaska on March 1, 1948, with funding under the Rural Electrification Act of 1936, as amended. In 1991 Chugach refinanced and paid off its federal debt, leaving the REA program. Today, Chugach remains a cooperative and ranks among the largest of the nearly 900 electric cooperatives nationwide.

Anchorage, 1947: A City of Few Lights

In 1947, Anchorage was a far cry - and countless wolf howls - from the modern city we know today. The population was estimated at less than 20,000 by the Interior Department. Established neighborhoods like Spenard, Rogers Park, Mountain View and Eastchester were considered the boonies.

Life was much different in Anchorage a half century ago. So many things we take for granted today - abundant electricity, natural gas, paved streets and highways, to name a few were non-existent.

In fact, as early as 1941 - as the territory boomed during World War II - electricity became a critical commodity in Anchorage, and was soon in short supply. The existing hydroelectric plants at Eklutna, as well as supplemental diesel generators, were soon taxed far beyond their capacity.

A Critical Need, A Bright Promise

By 1947, the shortage of electricity was so critical the city purchased the stern half of a wrecked ocean-going tanker, the Sackett's Harbor, in a desperate attempt to meet demand. The hulk was beached at the mouth of Ship Creek, and the boilers and generating equipment were used to deliver much-needed power. This makeshift solution was soon generating 42%, nearly half, of Anchorage Public Utilities' power requirement. Unfortunately, the cost was nearly one cent per kilowatt-hour more than the city collected in revenue.

But what Anchorage lacked in amenities and electrical power during the 1940's, it more than made up for with the power of innovation and commitment to the city's future. It was that resolute spirit and strong vision that brought 200 people together in August of 1947 to form a cooperative to bring power to their homes and businesses. That meeting became a promise for the power Anchorage desperately needed to grow and flourish.

Chugach Electric: The Power of Innovation

On March 1, 1948, Chugach Electric was incorporated as an REA (Rural Electrification Administration) cooperative. With $500,000 and a modest debt limit, Chugach set out to create an electrical distribution system to meet the demand and ensure a bright future for Anchorage. Volunteers went door-to-door in those days to collect the $5 membership fee (a fee that has not gone up in more than 50 years!). In August of '48, Chugach opened its first office, paying $25 per month for equipment, rent and utilities. And then, on November 11, as the darkness of winter loomed over the city, Chugach turned on the lights in nine homes in Rogers Park.

From those humble beginnings, Chugach began to grow and expand to keep pace with the region's burgeoning expansion. The hallmarks of the area's growth were everywhere. Anchorage International Airport was nearing completion. A paved road between Anchorage and the Matanuska Valley was planned. A road to link the Kenai Peninsula and Anchorage was commenced. And the new, 400-room, $6 million Native Hospital was underway.