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Southern California Edison Company - Lehman Brothers Collection

Southern California Edison Company

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The history of the Southern California Edison Company dates to 1896 when a group of business people, including Elmer Peck and George Baker, established the West Side Lighting Company to provide electricity to Los Angeles. In 1897 West Side merged with Los Angeles Edison Electric, which owned the rights to the Edison name and patents in the region, and Baker became the president of the new concern. During this time, Edison Electric installed the first DC-power underground conduits in the Southwest.

John Barnes Miller succeeded Baker as president in 1901. During his thirty-one-year reign the company acquired many neighboring utilities and built several power plants. In 1907 the company’s Kern River-Los Angeles Transmission Line began operation. At 118 miles and 75 kV, it was the world’s longest and highest voltage power line and the first line in the nation to be entirely supported by steel powers. The company changed its name to Southern California Edison in 1909.

Southern California Edison purchased the Pacific Light & Power Corporation in 1917. This acquisition doubled Edison’s assets and properties, making it the fifth-largest central-station power company in the United States. It now served over 100 communities with a total population of 1.25 million. In 1917 it also acquired control of the Ventura County Power Company and the Mount Whitney Power & Electric Company.

From 1917 through the 1920s, Edison created and expanded the Big Creek Project, which was the first large-scale progressive hydroelectric development in the country. This massive construction effort employed 2,000 workers and produced numerous technical innovations. By 1929 Big Creek’s eight powerhouses generated a total of 360,000 kilowatts, half of Edison’s total capacity.

Edison expanded its steam plants in Long Beach during the 1930s to include eleven new generators and a total of 419,000 kilowatts by the end of the decade. In August 1939 Edison swapped the remainder of its Los Angeles distribution system for facilities outside the city limits. These facilities were formerly owned by Los Angeles Gas and Electric and were acquired by the Los Angeles City Council in 1937. Previously, in 1922, Edison, bowing to pressure from local government, had sold its Los Angeles distribution system to the City Council.

During World War II, Japanese submarines shelled the Ellwood oil fields near Santa Barbara, damaging Edison transformers. In May 1942 Edison joined with all other investor and government-owned utilities in California, southern Nevada, and Arizona to form the Pacific Southwest Power Pool. The organization provided service to areas suffering power shortages or outages during the duration of the war.

In the post World War II period, Edison grew substantially as many industrial and military personnel returned to the Southern California region at a rate of 1,000 per week. Edison installed its one millionth meter in 1951.

In July 1957, at the Santa Susana Experimental Station, Edison became the first investor-owned utility to generate non-military nuclear power. Later, in November 1957, Moorpark, Ventura, became the first town in the world to receive its entire energy supply from a nuclear power plant, launching California’s “Age of Atomic Energy.”

In January 1964 California Electric Power Company, which served 450,000 people in an area from Tonopah in Central Nevada to Palm Springs in Southern California, merged with Edison. The integration of the two companies’ systems was considered the most complex in electric industry history.

On January 5, 1968, Edison powered-up Unit One of the new San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, a joint project between Edison (80 percent) and San Diego Gas and Electric Company (20 percent).

In 1971 Southern California Edison reported net income of $127 million from revenues of $802 million.

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