SWEPCO Celebrates its 92nd Year of Operations in 2004

          AEP Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO) celebrated its 92nd anniversary year of operation in 2004. Hardly recognized from its distant past when the company was formed as Southwestern Gas and Electric Company in 1912, SWEPCO has changed ownership, undergone a name change twice, and no longer provides gas, water, ice or transportation services.
            The original Southwestern Gas and Electric Company was the product of a merger between three utilities – Shreveport Gas, Electric Light and Power Company, Caddo Gas and Oil Company, and Texarkana Gas and Electric Company. These utilities were owned by a trio of brothers – Rufus, Henry and Charles Dawes, and in 1912 they consolidated their holdings into one company and Southwestern was born.
            The Dawes retained control of Southwestern until 1925 when it was sold to Middle West Utilities. The largest of Middle West’s many holding companies was Central and South West. Southwestern became a part of CSW, which also controlled Central Power and Light Co., Public Service Company of Oklahoma and West Texas Utilities.
            The company got out of the gas business in 1928. But through the 1930s and early 1940s, Southwestern was involved in other operations such as ice, water and streetcars, before divesting of these interests in the late 1940s.
            Southwestern’s service territory continued to expand, and the company’s three original power plants, including the 10,000-kilowatt “giant” of its day, Arsenal Hill in downtown Shreveport, were inadequate to meet the growing need. Southwestern built natural gas-fired plants and later added multiple generating units in Mooringsport on Caddo Lake, Longview and Lone Star, Texas.
In 1958, after 46 years as Southwestern Gas and Electric, a new corporate name was adopted – Southwestern Electric Power Company. This name would change again 42 years later, with the American Electric Power merger of 2000 to reflect the company as it’s known today – AEP Southwestern Electric Power Company. 
            By the early 1970s, natural gas shortages hit and long-term contracts couldn’t be found. The advantages of coal were obvious – inexpensive, abundant and available in the U.S. SWEPCO would go on to build two coal plants in the late 1970s – Welsh in East Texas, and Flint Creek in NW Arkansas.
            Continued customer growth created the need for additional plants. The fuel to fire these plants was found right in SWEPCO’s own back yard – lignite. The Pirkey Plant near Marshall, Texas was completed in 1985, and the Dolet Hills Power Plant went on line near Mansfield, La. in 1986. SWEPCO built Dolet Hills, while Cleco operates the plant and both companies share equally in the power produced from its single 640,000-kilowatt unit.
            After 92 years in business, SWEPCO still values its most cherished assets – its customers and its employees. When the company was first formed, it had 125 employees and served only three communities – Shreveport, Bossier City and Texarkana – with a combined population of 42,000. Today, SWEPCO serves 169 communities on its lines, representing a 25,000-square mile service area of Northwest La., East Texas and western Arkansas with a population well over a million. There are about 1,450 company employees supplying electricity to some 442,000 customers over some 5,000 miles of transmission lines and about 18,500 miles of distribution power lines.

Scott McCloud
Communications Consultant

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