Celebrating 100 Years of Service

Penelec employees – like Line Construction & Maintenance’s Dave Troutman – are looking toward the company’s second century of providing reliable service to customers.

June 7, 2019

In 1919, the Paris Peace Conference was underway as diplomats negotiated the treaty that would formally end the Great War. Baseball was being played around the country in a season that would culminate in the World Series known for the Chicago Black Sox fixing scandal. On a more positive note, Jackie Robinson was born; he would grow up to be the first African American to play Major League Baseball in the modern era.

And on June 10, financier H.D. Walbridge purchased several small companies to form the Penn Public Service Corporation, which grew into the Pennsylvania Electric Company – Penelec.

To celebrate Penelec’s century of service to northern and western Pennsylvania, employees will enjoy a breakfast event at all locations the morning of Monday, June 10. In addition, retirees are invited to afternoon gatherings at each facility scheduled throughout that week.

“We’re looking forward to marking the occasion with coworkers and catching up with some old friends,” said Tom Nuzback, Regional Operations supervisor, who’s leading a team organizing the festivities.

Penelec Regional President Nick Austin remarked on the company’s growth. “At our earliest beginnings, going back to a Philipsburg system that consisted of two miles of line and 16 customers, electricity was considered a luxury,” he said. “Today, we serve over 580,000 customers with 20,000 miles of line, and electricity is a necessity.”

​Through the years, Penelec has logged a number of significant technical and operational achievements. Among the highlights:

1920: Construction began at Seward power station, which was designed so units could be added without affecting those already in operation. Subsequently, units were added in 1941, 1949 and 1957.

1926: Penn Public Service opened a super-power line from its Piney plant to West Penn Power Company; it was the key link in a transmission connection involving 17 power companies.

1936: Melting snow from mountains combined with spring rains caused a major flood on St. Patrick’s Day in Johnstown. However, the city lost power for only two hours thanks to the system’s central stations and transmission lines that brought power from the Deep Creek and Piney plants. Enough power was available to help neighboring utilities in Altoona and Pittsburgh.

1956: With seven other companies, Penelec joined in one of the world’s most significant power interconnection systems, the Pennsylvania-New Jersey-Maryland Interconnection – known today as PJM Interconnection.

1960: Penelec energized the first-ever transmission line rated at 460,000 volts. For its efforts, the company received the Edison Award, the electric industry’s highest honor.

1964: For its outstanding safety performance, Penelec earned the Edison Electric Institute Annual Safety Award, the Pennsylvania Electric Association’s top safety honor and special recognition from parent company GPU.

1970: The Seneca Pumped Storage Generating Station entered operation. The 380,000-kilowatt hydro station is believed to be the first of its kind, with a system that returns the water to a reservoir after the generating operation.

2002: The American Society for Quality, in conjunction with other groups, recognized Penelec as a top service provider in customer satisfaction.

2014: Smart meter implementation got underway among FirstEnergy’s Pennsylvania operating companies, including Penelec; the deployment effort is expected to be 99% complete by the end of 2019.


A line crew in the Towanda area in 1941.

Meter reading handheld devices were introduced in the 1980s.

Penelec crews helped to restore power on the east coast after Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

“Those who came before us built this company, and now it is up to us to honor their legacy while creating a world-class electric utility focused on keeping its employees, contractors and customers safe,” said Nick. “This time in our history reminds me of an old proverb that states, ‘Let us use the past as a springboard to the future, not as a rocking chair.’ I think that saying applies to Penelec perfectly right now, as the entire team is well positioned to achieve our goals in the strategic value areas of Safety, Employees, Customers, Performance and Sustainability.”