Duke Energy’s history began with the Catawba Power Company in the early 1900s. Dr. W. Gill Wylie, James Buchanan Duke and William States Lee founded the company because they felt the South’s heavy dependence on agriculture was prohibiting growth of other industries – and so they envisioned an integrated electric system of hydro-powered generating stations.
They took the first big step toward this goal in 1904 when the Catawba Hydro Station in South Carolina began providing electricity to Victoria Cotton Mills. Over the next several years, the company’s hydroelectric fleet continued to grow to serve not only commercial textile mills, but the entire region’s growing appetite for electricity.
The company’s leaders also felt strongly about giving back to the communities they served. Their strong philanthropic commitment advanced the region’s quality of life by funding health care and education in the Carolinas. It’s a tradition that lives on today. The Duke Energy Foundation targets investments in areas where it believes the company can have the greatest impact on the well-being of our communities – the environment, economic and workforce development, education and community vitality.
The economic boom after World War II brought unprecedented demand for electric power. Fancy refrigerators, range-top ovens and television sets became middle-class staples. The increased demand for modern-day conveniences prompted a shift to coal-fired generation.
Tremendous expansion and growth occurred in electric and natural gas companies. Duke Power was no exception, and the company launched a massive construction program.
By the mid-1950s, Duke Power was looking ahead to nuclear power as a clean, safe and economical alternative for meeting growing electric energy needs. The first nuclear project, the Keowee-Toxaway Project, was launched in 1965. The project added the company’s first nuclear plant and a pumped-storage hydro plant. The nuclear plant was completed in seven years – at a cost less than half the industry average. The project earned Duke Power its first of three Edison Awards, the power industry’s highest honor.
After the 1979 Three Mile Island incident, Duke Power President Bill Lee led the creation of the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations, which strengthened and standardized the industry’s nuclear safety and training programs. Lee again took the lead after the 1986 Chernobyl accident, organizing the World Association of Nuclear Operators. Both organizations helped restore public confidence in nuclear power as a safe and plentiful source of energy.
The 1990s ushered in a trend to deregulate the natural gas industry in the United States, culminating in the unbundling of natural gas transportation, gathering and storage services from the government-regulated pipeline industry. PanEnergy Corp., a central player in the natural gas industry, quickly established a competitive position.
Today, Duke Energy is dedicated to identifying, integrating and scaling up new technologies that make electricity cleaner, more reliable and affordable. We’re poised as an industry leader in sustainable innovation, providing solutions that help our customers and communities thrive and grow. Because energy is about more than keeping the lights on.
(Source and image – : Duke Energy – Power lines and country life in 1909)