Yesterday was the 76th anniversary of the creation of the Rural Electrification Administration (REA). In 1935, only 12% of rural households had electric service. The REA hit the ground running and, within four years, the number of electrified rural homes had doubled. By 1946, 54% had electricity and, today, it’s close to 100%.

If you plot a curve, you can see that the pace of rural electrification was exponential. FDR created the REA, and it immediately became the one of the most successful federal projects in US history, bringing thousands of jobs to severely economically depressed areas and raising the standard of living of millions of marginalized rural families. Though we take electricity for granted today, rural electrification in the 20th century revolutionized the lives of rural families who were by and large cut off from the mainstream US economy and culture.

The moral of the story is this: When the United States sets its sights on something great, it can achieve its goals with stunning speed and efficacy. The solar revolution is in its infancy. What if we double the number of solar homes within four years? What if half of all homes are solar ten years from now? The challenge of residential solar pales in comparison to the challenge of bringing electricity to homes in remote areas.  And the impact will be no less revolutionary.

Let’s ramp up the solar revolution — we’ll supply the panels, you just get us some roofs!

Posted by Danny Kennedy

Danny Kennedy co-founded Sungevity and now serves as strategic advisor. He is an internationally recognized opinion leader on climate and energy issues. He is the author of Rooftop Revolution: How Solar Power Can Save Our Economy - and Planet - from Dirty Energy (2012), a book that has been described as the clean energy manifesto for the next greatest generation.