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Consolidated Edison (Con Edison).   more selected entries

One of the nation's largest energy companies. The holding company's largest utility subsidiary, Consolidated Edison Co of New York, is regulated by the New York State Public Service Commission and provides electricity and gas to most of New York City and Westchester Co, and steam to Manhattan. Its other regulated subsidiary, Orange and Rockland Utilities, acquired in 1999, provides electricity and gas to a 1,300 mi2 (3,370 km2) area in Orange, Rockland, and Sullivan Cos, as well as to parts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Con Edison's four smaller, unregulated subsidiaries market energy and telecommunications development services.

Con Edison traces its origins to the New York Gas Light Co, established in 1823, the first company to provide manufactured gas service to Manhattan. Over the next six decades other gas lighting companies received franchises from the city, and periods of cutthroat competition alternated with cartel-like cooperation. In 1881 the city awarded franchises to Charles Brush's Brush Electric Light Co for a street lighting system using arc lamps and to Thomas Edison's Edison Electric Illuminating Co for incandescent lighting service. It did not take the gas companies long to respond. Six of New York City's major gas companies merged to form the Consolidated Gas Co of New York in 1884, but new gas and electric utilities continued to enter the market. Between 1899 and 1901, when utility consolidations were occurring in most major US cities, Consolidated Gas took control of most of its New York City competitors (except those serving Brooklyn), as well as most electric utilities, including the successors to the original Brush and Edison companies. Thereafter Consolidated Gas continued to purchase smaller local gas and electric companies as the opportunity arose. In 1936 the company formally changed its name to Consolidated Edison. Operating revenues increased from $1.87 billion (in constant 2002 dollars) in 1939 to $8.28 billion in 1979, but lean years followed in the energy industry, and by 1989 revenues had dipped somewhat, to $8.05 billion. In 1998 Con Edison created its current holding company structure.

Although it is regulated, Con Edison has received frequent criticism. It has charged some of the highest rates in the country, and its Indian Point nuclear power facilities in Buchanan (Westchester Co) have been especially problematic. Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant 1, an experimental pressurized water reactor (PWR), began generating power in 1962 after many delays but had to be shut down permanently in 1974 following a steam leak that caused water to enter the reactor vessel. The 950 MW Indian Point 2 went operational in 1973, four years later than projected, and after numerous Nuclear Regulatory Commission citations and nearly continuous controversy, was sold with the defunct Indian Point 1 to Energy Nuclear in 2001. Indian Point 3 was sold to the New York Power Authority in 1975, before construction was completed (and the plant was later sold to Entergy Corp). Con Edison's transmission system has failed on a number of occasions, causing massive and lengthy blackouts, including ones in 1965, 1977, 1999, and 2003. Following substantial industry restructuring, the company enters an era in which New York State will see increased competition among energy providers. In 2001 Con Edison had total revenues of $9.6 billion, 71% of which came from 3.4 million electricity customers, 15% from 1.2 million gas customers, 8% from the sale of other services, and 5% from 1,800 steam customers, mostly large commercial users and apartment houses. With the sale of its nuclear plants, Con Edison is left with less than 700 MW of generating capacity in two small plants in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn, along with some scattered gas turbines. As of 2002 the company had assets of about $17 billion and employed approximately 14,000 people.

Collins, Frederick L. Consolidated Gas Company of New York (New York: Consolidated Gas, 1934)

Lurkis, Alexander. The Power Brink: Con Edison, A Centennial of Electricity (New York: Icare Press, 1982)

Pratt, Joseph A. A Managerial History of Consolidated Edison, 1936-1981 (New York: Consolidated Edison, 1988)

William Hausman


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