A buying-and-building boom time
Pennsylvania Power & Light establishes a formal marketing presence and helps pioneer the use of electric appliances and equipment.
Hydroelectric development on the nation’s rivers and streams reaches its peak.
Holtwood, operated by Pennsylvania Water & Power Co., becomes the only power plant in the world to combine a hydroelectric plant and a fossil-fuel plant on the same site.
The Wallenpaupack hydroelectric plant is put into service, creating Lake Wallenpaupack, a 5,760-acre reservoir one mile wide, 16 miles long and 60 feet deep.
The Pennsylvania-New Jersey Interconnection, the world’s first fully integrated power pool, is formed in 1928. The pool links Pennsylvania Power & Light, Philadelphia Electric Co., and Public Service Electric & Gas Co. together with a ring of 220,000-volt transmission lines.
In July 1928, construction is completed on “The Tower,” Pennsylvania Power & Light’s general headquarters building at the corner of Ninth and Hamilton streets in Allentown. The 23-story skyscraper is, at the time, the tallest building from New York City to Pittsburgh. Built at a cost of $3.2 million, it becomes the prototype for art deco architecture in New York City. The 1930 edition of The Encyclopedia Britannica features the building because of its unique construction and design.
Between 1928 and 1938, Pennsylvania Power & Light achieves a major expansion of its system by acquiring 62 companies, as well as purchasing stock in an additional 12 companies.
Tons of coal and a dip into hydro
Pennsylvania Power & Light enters the natural gas business.
Pennsylvania Water & Power Co. and Consolidated Gas & Electric in Baltimore form the Safe Harbor Water Power Co. and build the Safe Harbor hydroelectric plant on the Susquehanna River.
Pennsylvania Power & Light is the largest single user of anthracite in the world, consuming more than 1 million tons a year in the boilers of its generating plants.
The Public Utilities Holding Company Act of 1935 is signed into law, forcing holding companies to divest themselves of their operating subsidiaries.
A new Structure
Pennsylvania Power & Light prepares for divestiture from National Power & Light Co. By 1947, the company has a new ownership structure of more than 70,000 stockholders.
Pennsylvania Power & Light’s efforts to diversify the economy of the anthracite region begin in earnest. Over the next 17 years, a total of 750 industries are encouraged to locate in the region, creating more than 56,000 job opportunities for residents.
The roots of the region’s power pool
Pennsylvania Power & Light purchases Pennsylvania Water & Power Co. and the Scranton Electric Co.
Holtwood Unit 17 is built and goes on line, becoming the world’s largest anthracite-fired coal boiler.
Pennsylvania Power & Light announces its intention to build an atomic-energy power plant. It joins with Westinghouse to conduct a research and development program of a homogeneous reactor. The program fails; however, PP&L establishes an atomic power group in the Engineering Department.
The Martins Creek power plant is constructed and goes on line, hosting the largest single turbine-generator on the Pennsylvania Power & Light system. Martins Creek also pioneers the company’s community development efforts and is the company’s first plant designed to burn bituminous coal.
The three partners in the Pennsylvania-New Jersey power pool’s operating group sign a five-party agreement to create the Pennsylvania-New Jersey-Maryland (PJM) power pool. New partners are Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. and the General Public Utilities system.
Construction begins on the Brunner Island power plant on the Susquehanna River near Harrisburg, Pa.
Long, coal winters
The Brunner Island station, Pennsylvania Power & Light’s second semi-outdoor, bituminous coal-burning plant, goes on line. The initial two units are the biggest yet in the company’s system; a third unit is built before the end of the decade.
Pennsylvania Power & Light establishes itself as a winter-peak electric company by aggressively promoting residential and commercial electric heating while other utilities peg their growth on air conditioning for a summer peak. Through the 1990s, the company remains the only winter-peaking utility in the PJM power pool.
The Public Utility Commission approves Pennsylvania Power & Light’s new tariff filing that, for the first time, gives a separate and lower rate to residential customers who use electric energy as the exclusive source of home heating in addition to cooking and water heating.
The company enters a joint venture with its PJM partners to construct a mine-mouth program where electric power would be generated in western Pennsylvania and transmitted back to eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey through more than 600 miles of high-voltage lines.
Pennsylvania Power & Light shifts to Pennsylvania bituminous coal to lessen its dependence on the declining production of the state’s anthracite fields. The company also begins using a unit train system, which delivers coal in a dedicated trainload from the mine to the power plant.
The company begins a vigorous program of area and economic development in central and eastern Pennsylvania. Operation Trees is Pennsylvania Power & Light’s solution to restore the anthracite region’s landscape. Company foresters work with 139 community groups in 33 areas to plant more than a quarter-million seedlings in 1964 and 1965. Also, from 1961 to 1965, Pennsylvania Power & Light’s economic development efforts help create more than 500 new businesses in its service territory.
Female engineers join the company’s crews in 1968.
Pennsylvania Power & Light begins construction of the Montour power plant.
The Hauto plant closes its doors in 1969 after 56 years of operation, and the Stanton plant follows suit three years later after 45 years of operation, ending an era for two of the company’s oldest anthracite-fired power plants.
New Energy Realities
Pennsylvania Power & Light is recognized as one of the leaders in the industry in environmental activities.
The Montour facility goes on line. It is the first Pennsylvania Power & Light generating station to use natural draft cooling towers. It also is the company’s first coal-fired plant not located on a stream or river. Instead, water is pumped through a 12-mile-long pipeline from the Susquehanna River. A dammed stream creates a 162-acre lake for emergency water supply. The lake and surrounding acreage become the core of the Montour Environmental Preserve the company maintains for public use.
At the start of the decade, Pennsylvania Power & Light announces plans to build its first nuclear power plant. By the time construction reaches its peak in the late 1970s, more than 2,500 construction workers are employed at the Berwick site. This is the largest construction job in the company’s history. Part of the facility includes a separate simulator building to help plant operators train for potential emergencies. Because of the licensing and permitting process, as well as public scrutiny and additional government oversight after the Three Mile Island accident, it is 13 years before Unit One at Susquehanna begins commercial operation.
For the first time since the construction of the Wallenpaupack hydroelectric plant in the 1920s, Pennsylvania Power & Light decides to build generating units that did not burn coal. The decision to install two oil-fired units at the Martins Creek power plant requires construction of an 80-mile pipeline to carry the oil to the plant and illustrates the company’s growing environmental awareness. When the new units begin commercial operation in 1975 and 1977, Martins Creek becomes the largest plant on the Pennsylvania Power & Light system.
In the late ’70s, energy conservation becomes the watchword at Pennsylvania Power & Light, as well as the rest of the utility industry. This decade has brought new energy realities with two oil embargoes, double-digit inflation, high energy prices and increasing electric rates. In response, the company begins energy conservation programs for homeowners and creates a consumer advisory panel to address energy problems.
A nuclear arrival
Pennsylvania Power & Light surpasses the million-customer level in 1981.
The Susquehanna nuclear station’s two units begin commercial operation in 1983-1984. For the first time in more than half a century, the company shows a decline in electricity sales, a result of the declining national and regional economy. As a result, Pennsylvania Power & Light’s economic development efforts intensify, and the company once again focuses its attention on marketing. The company kicks off a new economic development program in 1984 with a corporate goal of bringing 5,000 new jobs to the region each year – double the number that previous efforts had produced.
Deregulation and steps abroad
The electric industry enters an era of consolidation and deregulation. As a result, Pennsylvania Power & Light restructures from a geographically organized traditional electric utility in a natural monopoly environment to a functionally organized electric power supplier in a competitive environment.
In 1994, Pennsylvania Power & Light forms a holding company, PP&L Resources Inc., to serve as parent to the regulated electric utility, and to a newly formed, unregulated subsidiary called Power Markets Development Company, created to invest in power projects domestically and overseas. PP&L Resources later becomes PPL Corporation and Power Markets Development Company later becomes PPL Global.
Pennsylvania Power & Light is one of 12 test sites chosen nationally to partner with General Motors to promote electric vehicles.
Pennsylvania Power & Light becomes the first Pennsylvania utility to endorse generation market competition.
Power Markets Development Co. purchases a 25 percent interest in a British regional electric company, South Western Electricity, plc, from its co-owner Southern Energy Inc. This company would later become Western Power Distribution.
Representatives from Pennsylvania Power & Light help craft legislation that provides customers with choice of their electricity generation supplier. Pennsylvania Power & Light becomes the first utility to receive a license from the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission to sell electricity and energy services in Pennsylvania’s newly deregulated market.
Pennsylvania Power & Light forms the Retail Energy Supply group, later to become PPL EnergyPlus, to serve customers in the unregulated markets.
In 1998, PP&L agrees to acquire 13 Montana power plants, with more than 2,600 megawatts of generating capacity. The company later acquires the energy marketing and trading operation of the Montana Power Co.
Safety, efficiency and the environment
PP&L Resources begins trading on Feb. 15, 2000, as PPL Corporation as part of a corporate realignment.
PPL Electric Utilities begins installing automated electric meters for its 1.3 million customers in eastern and central Pennsylvania.
PPL on June 19, 2003, dedicates the Plaza at PPL Center, a new office building in Allentown, Pa., that showcases environmentally wise construction.
PPL Electric Utilities becomes the first electric utility in the country to qualify all of its field worksites for “Star” status under OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Program.
PPL Corporation completes unprecedented investments in pollution control equipment at its coal-fired power plants in Pennsylvania. The company also begins significant upgrades of two hydroelectric plants – Holtwood in Pennsylvania and Rainbow Dam in Montana – increasing the amount of clean, renewable energy in the company’s generation portfolio.
PPL Electric Utilities launches a new “e-power” education campaign to promote energy efficiency and a new Web site that gives customers tools to help them take greater control of their electricity use.
At the direction of the PJM Interconnection board of managers, PPL Electric Utilities announces plans to build a new 500-kilovolt transmission line to improve reliability in the region.
Investing in Utilities
In 2011, PPL Corporation acquires Kentucky’s two major utilities, Louisville Gas and Electric Company and Kentucky Utilities Company.
That same year, PPL acquires the Central Networks electric distribution business in central England accelerating the growth of its regulated electricity operations. The business becomes a part of the U.K. distribution network, Western Power Distribution.
In 2014, PPL Montana sells its hydroelectric facilities to NorthWestern Energy. In 2015, PPL Corporation completes the spinoff of its Energy Supply business, forming an independent power producer called Talen Energy Corporation.