FirstEnergy Corp. is a diversified energy company headquartered in Akron, Ohio. Its subsidiaries and affiliates are involved in the generation, transmission, and distribution of electricity, as well as energy management and other energy-related services. Its seven electric utility operating companies comprise the nation’s fifth largest investor-owned electric system, based on serving 4.5 million customers within a area of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey; and its generation subsidiaries control more than 14,000 megawatts of capacity. In 2007, FirstEnergy ranked 212 on the Fortune 500 list of the largest public corporations in America.
Formation of the company
FirstEnergy was formed in 1997, when Ohio Edison Company and its subsidiary, Pennsylvania Power Company merged with Centerior Energy Corp. and its subsidiaries, The Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company and The Toledo Edison Company. In 2001, FirstEnergy merged with GPU, Inc., the owner of Jersey Central Power & Light Company, Pennsylvania Electric Company (Penelec), and Metropolitan Edison Company (Met-Ed).
Ohio Edison Company (formerly ) was a publicly-traded holding company that began in 1930, from the consolidation of 200 electric companies. By 1950, it ended up with two utility operating companies. Ohio Edison Company continued in existence until 1997 when its merger with Centerior formed FirstEnergy:
- In 1944, the Pennsylvania Power Company became a subsidiary of Ohio Edison, and is now one of the seven FirstEnergy operating utilities.
- In 1950, the Ohio Edison Company merged with the Ohio Public Service Company, which continued to operate under its new Ohio Edison name. It is now one of the seven FirstEnergy operating companies.
Centerior Energy Corporation (formerly ) was formed in 1986 from the merger of two old operating companies. Centerior was based in Independence, Ohio
and existed as a publicly-traded holding company for only ten years, until its merger with Ohio Edison formed FirstEnergy in 1997:
- Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company, commonly known as The Illuminating Company (formerly ), was a publicly-traded operating company through 1986, until it merged with Toledo Edison to come under the control of Centerior. Having been acquired by 1929, (org chart) by 1940 it had become one of ten major direct subsidiaries of North American Company, which in turn had once been one of the original 12 stocks listed in the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
- Toledo Edison Company (formerly ) was a publicly-traded utility operating company, until it merged to form Centerior in 1986.
General Public Utilities (formerly ) was a publicly-traded utility holding company in Morristown, New Jersey
. In 1996 the company was reorganized and renamed GPU, Inc. In 1996 it formed a new division as well, GPU Energy, which became the holding company for its three utility operating companies:
- Jersey Central Power and Light
- Penelec, formerly Pennsylvania Electric Company
- Met-Ed, formerly Metropolitan Edison
In 2001, FirstEnergy Corporation, with its four utility operating companies, merged with GPU, Inc., bringing GPU's three additional operating companies into FirstEnergy as well.
Through the 2001 acquisition of GPU, FirstEnergy also acquired:
- MYR Group (formerly ), a subsidiary that GPU had created as a publicly-traded company in the 1996 reorganization, to install and maintain utility power lines and cellular telephone communications towers.
FirstEnergy's electric generation is primarily from coal and nuclear power plants. The system also includes natural gas, oil, and hydroelectric power plants. FirstEnergy operates the Beaver Valley
, and Perry nuclear power plants
A study conducted by the University of Massachusetts has named FirstEnergy Corp. the 58th most toxic corporate air polluter with 21.65 million pounds of toxic air releases in 2002.
FirstEnergy is required to pay $1.5 billion by 2011 as part of a settlement to end a lawsuit that the EPA
has filed. This lawsuit alleged that the company failed to install pollution control equipment when upgrading its coal burning plants. Also as part of the the settlement, major pollution control equipment is now being installed at the FirstEnergy Sammis site and others. This lawsuit was one of the New Source Review
lawsuits filed in the 1990s.
In order to show that the company is concerned about the environment, FirstEnergy Solutions Corp. has given renewable energy certificates to help balance out the amount of electricity used in Earth Day events that were held at nine post-secondary education locations in Maryland, New Jersey, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Each of the schools received five SmartWind REC’s, enough energy to light a large building for the entire day.
Notable accidents and incidents
The 2003 North American blackout was caused by the failure of FirstEnergy to trim the trees around their high voltage lines in a certain sector of Ohio; heat and extreme power needs caused the lines to sag, coming into contact with the trees and causing power failure. See 2003 North American blackout
for more details.
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission voted on January 16, 2004 to investigate Metropolitan Edison, Pennsylvania Electric and Pennsylvania Power (the former GPU companies) because their service reliability "may have fallen below established standards". A quarter century earlier, GPU's Three Mile Island was the scene of the worst civilian nuclear accident in American history.
On Friday, January 20, 2006, FirstEnergy acknowledged a cover-up of serious safety violations by former workers at the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station, and accepted a plea bargain with the U.S. Department of Justice in lieu of possible federal criminal prosecution. The plea bargain relates to the March 2002 discovery of severe corrosion in the pressure vessel of the nuclear reactor, contained within the plant's containment building. In the agreement, the company agreed to pay fines of $23 million, with an additional $5 million to be contributed toward research on alternative energy sources and to Habitat for Humanity as well as to pay for costs related to the Federal investigation. In addition, two former employees and one former contractor were indicted for purposely deceiving Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) inspectors in multiple documents (including one videotape) over several years, hiding evidence that the reactor pressure vessel was being seriously corroded by boric acid. The maximum penalty for the three is 25 years in prison. The indictment also cites other employees as providing false information to inspectors, but does not name them.
In 2005, the NRC identified two earlier incidents at Davis-Besse as being among the top five events (excluding the actual disaster at Three Mile Island) most likely to have resulted in a nuclear disaster in the event of a subsequent failure. (ref NRC Commission Document SECY-05-0192 Attachment 2 )