The response to Hurricane Hugo, perhaps more than any other single event, best exemplifies SCANA’s story during its long history. On the night of September 21, 1989, the eye of this Category 4 storm came ashore at Charleston, South Carolina, where we began in 1846. With winds approaching 150 miles an hour, Hugo destroyed in just hours an electric delivery system that took a hundred years to build.
Our History in the Making
When Hurricane Hugo hit in 1989, it was a time of disaster but not despair. In retrospect, it was a shining moment in our history. Employees took initiative just as they continue to do today. They were empowered to find new and better ways to succeed, and they did. All 300,000 customers left without power had it back within 17 days. But that accomplishment is just one of the many challenges our employees have met successfully in the Company's first century and a half of existence.
The history of SCANA Corporation is a story of firsts, from hand-lit gas streetlights to multi-state, fiber optic networks. It is a story of innovation, of people with the ingenuity, as demonstrated following Hugo, to overcome seemingly insurmountable problems. It is a story of developing communities, of leadership and shared success.
In the Beginning
SCANA’s earliest corporate ancestors provided manufactured gas and electricity and provided streetcar services. Their evolution generally paralleled each other in the developing cities of Charleston, Columbia and Aiken in mid-19th century South Carolina.
It all began in 1846 when local business leaders came together to form the Charleston Gas Light Company. Their business was the manufacture of gas from coal, oil and resins. In the spring of 1848, the first gas streetlights appeared. By the end of the year, 485 customers were taking advantage of this newest luxury. Six years later and 100 miles to the north, the Columbia Gas Light Company was formed. By the end of 1888, there were gas mains on every principal street in the capital city.
Thomas Edison's invention of the incandescent light bulb in 1879 was a pivotal moment in the utility industry. New companies began to appear, competing to be the first to bring this new invention to the public. The first electric lights appeared in Charleston in 1882, but it was not until the formation of the Charleston Electric Light Company in 1886 that electric lighting proved successful in Charleston. In 1887, the Congaree Gas & Electric Company formed to generate and distribute electricity in Columbia.
During this time the first railway companies emerged: Charleston City Railway Company in 1861 and Columbia Street Railway Company in 1882. By 1893, electric streetcars were rolling in Columbia; they made their debut in Charleston in 1897.
Electric trolley lines were the chief source of income for these early companies. The utilities created and promoted different entertainment events to increase riders. Patrons could choose oceanside concerts on the Isle of Palms, or weekly vaudeville performances at a casino in North Columbia.
The Era of Mergers
By the turn of the century, mergers meant fewer but larger utility companies. Demand for electricity was growing, and SCANA’s predecessors continued to make their mark with a series of firsts. Among them was Columbia Water Power Company's powerhouse on the Columbia Canal, which in 1894 supplied the power for the world's first electrically powered textile mill.
Mergers accelerated in the early 1920s. In 1924, the Broad River Power Company organized as a subsidiary of General Gas & Electric Corporation. The next year it bought the electric and gas properties of Columbia Railway, Gas & Electric Company. The new company immediately set out on a construction program to add electric generating capacity.
South Carolina Power Company formed in 1926 when several smaller utility companies consolidated in Charleston. Two years later, Commonwealth & Southern Corporation purchased controlling interest in South Carolina Power Company. It then merged with the Augusta-Aiken Railway & Electric Company, Georgia-Carolina Power Company and the Edisto Public Service Corporation, bringing 13 new counties into the Charleston company's service territory.
Fuel for the Economy
During the next two decades, the growth of the power companies helped fuel expansion of the state's economy. In 1927, the Lexington Water Power Company received a license to build a dam on the Saluda River northwest of Columbia. Saluda Dam, which would create the 50,000-acre Lake Murray, was the largest man-made barrier built for power production in the world when completed in 1930. In addition, the project provided desperately needed jobs in the lean years leading up to and beyond the stock market crash of 1929 and the beginning of the Great Depression.
In 1937, the Broad River Power Company changed its name to South Carolina Electric & Gas Company. It remains SCANA Corporation's principal subsidiary today. Five years later, Lexington Water Power Company merged with SCE&G.
Throughout the difficult economic times of the 1930s and early 1940s, SCE&G and other private utility companies fought unsuccessfully to prevent the creation of public power companies, a source of continuing debate in modern times. With the outbreak of World War II, SCE&G and South Carolina Power Company shifted focus to the energy demands of the war effort. Bus systems in Charleston and Columbia set records for passengers carried during the war years.
Shaping Our Future
The year 1946 brought profound changes that continue to shape SCANA Corporation today. As a result of the Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935, which mandated the streamlining of holding companies, General Public Utilities Corporation divested its ownership of SCE&G through a stock distribution. A similar divestiture occurred with South Carolina Power Company and Commonwealth & Southern Corporation. On Nov. 15, 1946, SCE&G became an independent entity. That same year it became the first South Carolina corporation to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Moving aggressively, the company launched plans to purchase South Carolina Power Company and consolidate the companies' neighboring service territories.
The initial stock offering of SCE&G was issued successfully in May of 1948. The company acquired South Carolina Power Company that same month. Approval from all required regulatory bodies in hand, the companies merged under the name of South Carolina Electric & Gas Company in April 1950.
A Platform of Growth
The merger ushered in two decades of general economic stability and growth. There were virtually no electric or gas rate cases in the 1950s and 1960s, even though SCE&G continued to expand with the construction of three major generating plants: Urquhart Station in 1953; McMeekin Station in 1958; and Canadys Station in 1962.
A new subsidiary, South Carolina Generating Company, was formed in 1951 to build Urquhart Station. South Carolina Natural Gas Company was established as a subsidiary the following year to build lines to distribute natural gas. From 1955 to 1965, the efficiency of the SCE&G electric generating plants improved by 19% through a company-wide commitment to lower costs of service, a philosophy still embraced today.
Following in the tradition of its predecessor companies, in 1959 SCE&G took part in another first. The company joined three neighboring utilities to build the first electricity-producing nuclear power plant in the Southeast. The small, 17-megawatt reactor was a prototype model used for research and was built at Parr, South Carolina, where one of the company's first hydroelectric plants opened in 1914.
The Parr prototype reactor first generated electricity on Dec. 16, 1963. It was taken out of service in 1967 after providing extensive research data that laid the foundation for a much larger commercial nuclear reactor the following decade.
In June 1971, SCE&G began the licensing process to build a nuclear plant two miles from the prototype reactor site. In yet another first, SCE&G took on as a financial partner its long-standing rival, the South Carolina Public Service Authority. The public-private partnership made the project financially feasible. And despite the accident at Three Mile Island in 1979 that led to substantial regulatory delays and subsequent cost increases, the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station's $1.3 billion price tag was 24% less than the average of 13 other nuclear generating facilities constructed over the same period during the 1970s and early '80s.
Inflation in the 1970s plagued all areas of SCE&G operations. Slowing growth rate and pressures from increasing capital costs associated with the construction of Williams Station near Charleston and the nuclear plant meant a decade of rate increases. However, the company's commitment to cost reduction gradually lowered rates during the late 1980s.
The Birth of SCANA
The union that would lead directly to the formation of SCANA occurred in January 1982. SCE&G and Carolina Energies, Inc. (CEI) announced jointly that they would merge under the name South Carolina Electric & Gas Company (SCG&E). The merger with CEI, a holding company with six subsidiaries of its own involved in the sale and transmission of natural gas and propane, made SCE&G the largest natural gas supplier in South Carolina.
SCANA, the diversified holding company as it is known today, was formed on Dec. 31, 1984. That restructuring allowed the corporation to segment its various businesses and diversify into other energy-related enterprises. Ventures into telecommunications and personal communications services, power plant management, natural gas exploration and production, natural gas brokering, propane sales and home appliance service contracts opened new markets. Meanwhile, SCANA maintained its foundation in the traditional electric and natural gas utility fields.
Today SCANA, through its various subsidiaries, serves customers throughout North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. After 160 years of business, SCANA remains committed to one tenet above all else: Relying on the ingenuity, innovation and determination of our employees as the keys to continued success.
Interested in learning more about some of the power plants and pipelines that serve the SCANA family of companies? Click here.