Gunnison Valley ranchers' dreams of electric service began to come to fruition in 1938 when Gunnison County Electric Cooperative's original board met to incorporate the cooperative on September 21, 1938. Over 100 members attended the first annual meeting in Crested Butte on January 1939. W. Richard Walker was elected president and Janet Allen was elected secretary.Other directors included Hannah Shackleford, Harvey Lobdell, Tony Danni, Ruth Dickerson, and J.H. Sanders. Of these original board members, Janet Allen served the longest term–36 years!
Gunnison County Electric Cooperative (GCEA) hired its first manager, V.A. Morgan, on January 7, 1941. That first year, GCEA received over five hundred applications for power. The first lines were energized in Crested Butte heading south on Saturday, December 6, 1941 at 10:00 am. The energizing was to continue on Sunday, December 7 and Monday December 8th. But because of the war effort that followed, further work on the lines was delayed. By 1943, the cooperative's work was at a standstill. Manager Morgan requested a leave of absence since revenue was low and materials (especially copper) were not available to expand the system.
In 1944, GCEA had to purchase power from the City of Gunnison because of the decrease in generation of electricity by the Roosevelt Hydro Plant near Ohio City. Then in 1951 GCEA entered into a contract with the Bureau of Reclamation for power supplies. Construction of lines into the Powderhorn Valley began in 1953 with service to Lake City following in 1957.
In 1962 GCEA had to relocate approximately 22 miles of distribution lines to make way for the Blue Mesa Dam Project. GCEA gave up its contract for hydro power and began purchasing power from Colo-Ute Electric instead.
Meanwhile, construction on Crested Butte Ski Area had begun in 1960, and by 1963, the ski area was negotiating for power to supply ski lifts. By 1968, additional lines were extended to the present day ski area. Although the REA originally thought it was not feasible to provide power to outlying areas of Tincup and Taylor, approval was finally received in 1971 and power was made available to Tincup and Taylor in 1974.
After negotiating a contract with Colo-Ute to become a supplier of supplemental wholesale power to the City of Gunnison, GCEA moved its main office to Gunnison in 1975.
In 1981, GCEA was first in the State of Colorado, and third in the nation, to offer an Energy Conservation Loan Program to its members. By 1991, there were a total of 31 active, and 75 inactive, or paid, loans.
In 1983, GCEA members voted to become de-regulated from the Public Utilities Commission which resulted in a minimum of $50,000 savings. GCEA purchased 2.8 acres, making a total of 6 acres available to build the Crested Butte Substation. In 1985, GCEA became computerized. In 1987, the Board of Directors authorized the first "general retirement" of capital Credits for the years 1962 through 1965.
GCEA became a member of Tri-State Generation and Transmission, Inc. on April 15, 1992 when Tri State bought out Colo-Ute. After 60 years of service and growth, GCEA now serves more than 10,000 customers on 1,030 miles of distribution lines in Gunnison County and parts of Saguache and Hinsdale Counties.