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    Firstenergy Corp.

    76 S Main StPhone: +1-800-736-3402
    AkronOHFax: -
    44308Toll Free: +1-800-736-3402
    United StatesMap Map This Company
    http://www.firstenergycorp.comHoover's coverage by Stuart Hampton

    History

    FirstEnergy came to light in 1893 as the Akron Electric Light and Power Company. After several mergers, the business went bankrupt and was sold in 1899 to Akron Traction and Electric Company, which became Northern Ohio Power and Light (NOP&L).

    In 1930 Commonwealth and Southern (C&S) bought NOP&L and merged it with four other Ohio utility holding companies to form Ohio Edison. The new firm increased sales during the Depression by selling electric appliances.

    The Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935 (passed to rein in uncontrolled utilities) caught up with C&S in 1949, forcing it to divest Ohio Edison. Rival Ohio Public Service was also divested from its holding company, and in 1950 Ohio Edison bought it.

    In 1967, after two decades of expansion, Ohio Edison and three other Ohio and Pennsylvania utilities formed the Central Area Power Coordination Group (CAPCO) to share new power-plant costs, including the construction of the Beaver Valley nuclear plant (1970-76). Although the CAPCO partners agreed in 1980 to cancel four planned nukes, in 1985 Ohio Edison took part in building the Perry Unit 1 and Beaver Valley Unit 2 nuclear plants.

    The federal Energy Policy Act of 1992 allowed wholesale power competition, and to satisfy new federal requirements, Ohio Edison formed a six-state transmission alliance in 1996 with fellow utilities Centerior Energy, Allegheny Power System, and Dominion Resources' Virginia Power to coordinate their grids.

    Ohio Edison paid about $1.5 billion in 1997 for Centerior Energy, formed in 1986 as a holding company for Toledo Edison and Cleveland Electric. Ohio Edison and Centerior, both burdened by high-cost generating plants, merged to cut costs, and the expanded energy concern was renamed FirstEnergy Corp.

    The transmission issue arose again in 1997. FirstEnergy left the transmission-coordination alliance Midwest ISO (Independent System Operator) to start a rival, Alliance, with 11 utility members. However, the Alliance group was later dissolved.

    Looking toward deregulation, FirstEnergy began buying mechanical construction, contracting, and energy management companies in 1997, including Roth Bros. and RPC Mechanical. In 1998 it added nine more. FirstEnergy then ventured into natural gas operations by purchasing MARBEL Energy. The company also created separate subsidiaries for its nuclear and transmission assets.

    Power marketers Federal Energy Sales and the Power Co. of America couldn't deliver the juice to FirstEnergy during the summer of 1998's hottest days. FirstEnergy later sued Federal Energy for $25 million in damages. The next year it bought electricity outage insurance.

    Pennsylvania began large-scale electric power competition in 1999, when Ohio lawmakers passed deregulation legislation. To comply with state regulation, FirstEnergy agreed to trade power plants, including Beaver Valley, with DQE (now Duquesne Light Holdings). That year brought trouble when the EPA named FirstEnergy and six other utilities in a suit that charged the utility with noncompliance with the Clean Air Act.

    In 2000 FirstEnergy agreed to acquire New Jersey-based electric utility GPU in an $11.9 billion deal; it became one of the largest US utilities in 2001 when it completed the acquisition, which added three utilities (Jersey Central Power & Light, Metropolitan Edison, and Pennsylvania Electric) serving 2.1 million electricity customers.

    Following the acquisition, FirstEnergy agreed to sell an 80% stake in GPU's UK utility, Midlands Electricity, to UtiliCorp (later Aquila) in a $2 billion deal, completed in 2002. It also agreed to sell four Ohio coal-fired plants (2,500 MW) to NRG Energy for $1.5 billion; however, the deal was later canceled. The firm also spun off GPU's Australian GasNet subsidiary to the public.

    To focus on its domestic operations, FirstEnergy has sold the international energy assets gained through the acquisition of GPU. It has divested its Australian utility GasNet and its UK utility Midlands Electricity, and it has exited its Argentine utility business (Emdersa) and sold its stakes in Latin American, European, and Asian power plants. The company has also left some of its facilities services businesses and in 2004 sold its 50% stake in Great Lakes Energy Partners, which explores for and produces oil and gas in the Appalachian Basin, for $200 million.

    The US-Canada Power System Outage Task Force, which investigated the massive August 14, 2003, blackout that affected eight states and a Canadian province, released its interim report that November and a final report the following year. The initial report found that FirstEnergy violated four voluntary standards set by the North American Electric Reliability Council and stated that the blackout was largely caused by FirstEnergy's failure to set up proper communication and monitoring procedures for its transmission assets. The report also cited the company's failure to trim trees, which caused several major transmission lines in its service territory to short-circuit during the incident.

    The final report did not lay any additional blame on the utility, but stated that the blackout could have been prevented if utilities had followed voluntary reliability standards. FirstEnergy paid a total of $90 million to settle federal lawsuits over its involvement in the blackout, as well as other securities and derivative issues, without admitting any wrongdoing. FirstEnergy faced a formal SEC investigation into financial restatements (in 2003) and an extended nuclear power plant outage (2002-04); the investigation was not related to the blackout and was an extension of an informal SEC inquiry.

    To settle with the US Environmental Protection Agency, FirstEnergy agreed in 2005 to pay an estimated $1.1 billion in fines and for anti-pollution devices to be installed at its coal-burning plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

    In 2006 company acquired 34.5 MW of output from the Casselman Wind Power Project under development in Somerset County, Pennsylvania.

    In 2009 FirstEnergy began to reengineer units 4 and 5 at its R.E. Burger Plant in Shadyside, Ohio, to generate electricity primarily with biomass, a move that boosted FirstEnergy's portfolio of renewable energy to more than 1,100 MW, including 451 MW of pumped-storage hydro and 376 MW of wind power.

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