Tracing its roots to a collection of companies that once generated power to illuminate downtown streetlights and operate electric passenger railways, West Penn Power, a FirstEnergy Corp. subsidiary, marks its 100th anniversary on March 1.
"The world has changed immeasurably over the last hundred years, and West Penn Power has been there each step of the way, delivering safe, reliable electric service to our customers," said David W. McDonald, president of West Penn Power. "Our employees continue to work tirelessly to satisfy our customers' desire for the latest electric conveniences and technologies."
On March 1, 1916, the numerous electric companies that served towns and cities such as Uniontown, Greensburg, Jeannette, Kittanning, Butler and Connellsville consolidated operations to become West Penn Power, which was headquartered in Pittsburgh until moving to Greensburg in 1955.
The electric railroads run by some of these companies were spun off to create a separate company called West Penn Railways Co., which, at its peak in 1923, carried 55 million passengers annually.
West Penn Power initially created business for its then-novel product through its retail sales and marketing subsidiary, launching a major electric refrigerator campaign in 1926. The West Penn Appliance Company also sold electric household items such as lamps, ranges, waffle irons, toasters, heaters and vacuum cleaners.
At its outset, West Penn Power had 24,000 customers with the typical customer using about 200 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity per year. Today, West Penn Power serves more than 720,000 customers, with residential customers typically consuming 12,000 kWh annually.
"West Penn Power's commitment to the areas we call home doesn't stop with the delivery of reliable electric service," McDonald said. "Our employees reside in the communities we serve, proudly volunteering their time, talents and dollars to make each a better place to live, work and raise families."
Since 2011, West Penn Power employees, augmented by FirstEnergy Foundation matching gifts, have pledged nearly $600,000 to area United Ways and collected more than $51,000 and thousands of pounds of food – the equivalent of nearly 365,000 meals – for local food banks through Harvest For Hunger.
They've also participated in walk-a-thons, book drives, coat drives, blood drives, and holiday toy and gift collections for numerous other charitable causes.
Current and retired "West Penners" will come together in March to celebrate West Penn Power's 100th Anniversary at the company's Greensburg headquarters where they will swap stories, view old photos and browse a collection of company memorabilia.
In addition, in honor of West Penn Power's centennial and railway heritage, the FirstEnergy Foundation will donate $5,000 to the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum in Washington, Pa., which houses West Penn Railway cars No. 739 and 832, and West Penn Railway Electric Locomotive No. 1.
West Penn Power's linemen, operations employees and meter reading group recently achieved another remarkable milestone in working more than a full year without incurring an Occupational Safety and Health Administration-recordable injury, the longest stretch in the utility's century-long history.
In addition, West Penn Power's substation group has worked two years without an OSHA-recordable injury.