American Electric Power
In 1899, American Electric Power began its life as a utility holding company under a different name: Electric Company of America. On December 20, 1906, it acquired a certificate of incorporation and renamed itself the American Gas and Electric Company. Two weeks later it would receive its first utilities, which provided electricity, gas, water, and ice services throughout New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois.
AG&E grew quickly in the next few years. Its interconnected system went online in 1911, when a 33,000-volt line joined two power plants in Marion and Muncie, Indiana. In 1917, it opened the Windsor Plant, its first “super” power plant in Wheeling, West Virginia. The facility was notably the first to supply power to its customers over long distance, as far west as Canton, Ohio. It was also the first plant to be built in close proximity to a coal mine, a great convenience for transportation.
When the Great Depression struck in 1929, AG&E weathered the crisis with little damage to its financial integrity. It would expand again starting in 1941, when the manufacturing boom of World War II raised demand for electricity. Its growth continued under the guidance of Phillip Sporn, who became company president in 1947. In 1958, the company would adopt its current name, American Electric Power. In 1975, the Cook Nuclear Plant in Bridgman, Michigan, would go into service as AEP’s first nuclear power plant. By 1978, it had two reactor units with outputs between 1 and 2 million kilowatts each.
After acquiring Columbus and Southern Ohio Electric Company on May 9, 1980, President W.S. White moved the corporate headquarters from New York City to Columbus, Ohio. In 1983, it had completed its move to a newly-built 31-story office building at 1 Riverside Plaza, which it still calls home today.
As of 2010, AEP is partitioned into seven geographic operating companies, including AEP Ohio, AEP Texas, Appalachian Power, Indiana Michigan Power, Kentucky Power, Public Service Company of Oklahoma (PSO), and Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO), and two smaller divisions, Wheeling Electric Power and Kingsport Electric Power.
In recent years, AEP has attempted to improve its image by adopting “green” technologies. It has begun talks to acquire International DuraStar hybrid trucks, as well as collaborate with Ford for the development of a Vehicle-to-Power grid communication system. The company has gone into negotiation with Wyandot Solar LLC and to further reduce carbon emissions. It has also collaborated with Allegheny Energy for the Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline to reduce both companies’ carbon output.
Despite its efforts to clean up its environmental impact, American Electric Power is ranked by the Political Economy Research Institute as number 45 among U.S. companies that emit airborne pollutants. Among those pollutants are sulfuric and hydrochloric acid, chromium, manganese and nickel compounds. However, another major threat posing a lasting risk to employees is the presence of asbestos, which was used heavily in the construction and machinery of nearly all industrial facilities built prior to the 1970s. As a result of asbestos’ ability to withstand heat, electricity and fire, the mineral saw heavy usage as a protective material. Despite its value as an insulator, though, asbestos poses significant health risks when damaged, which allows its tiny fibers to splinter and enter the air. Once in the air, these fibers can enter the bodies of those exposed, leading to serious health conditions like asbestosis and mesothelioma.