SWEPCO - Celebrating a Century of Service in 2012
Formed as Southwestern Gas and Electric Company in June 1912, AEP Southwestern Electric Power
Company (SWEPCO) is 100 years old, has 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 original power plant units,
including the 10,000-kilowatt (KW) “giant” of its day, Arsenal Hill in Louisiana, were inadequate
to meet the growing need. Southwestern built natural gas-fired plants and added multiple generating
units in various locations in the 1940s and 1950s, including Knox Lee Power Plant on Cherokee Lake
near Longview, Tex,; and the Lieberman Power Plant on Caddo Lake at Mooringsport, La.
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 its known today – AEP Southwestern Electric
Power Company, or more commonly as SWEPCO. AEP celebrated its 100-year anniversary in 2006.
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. Southwestern
would go on to build two coal plants in the late 1970s and early 1980s – Flint Creek in NW Arkansas,
and Welsh in East Texas.
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 in East Texas was completed
in 1985, and the Dolet Hills Power Plant in Louisiana went on line in 1986. SWEPCO built Dolet
Hills, while Central Louisiana Electric Company (Cleco) operates the plant and both SWEPCO and
Cleco are partners with two other companies that share in the power produced from its single
640,000 KW unit.
While the company did not build a power plant for over 20 years, increased electricity usage and strong customer growth prompted a return to the plant building business again. SWEPCO’s balanced approach to new generation, announced in 2006, included both coal and natural gas plants to support generation fuel diversity. The 600-megawatt, coal-fueled John W. Turk, Jr. Power Plant is a base-load facility designed to meet customers’ need for power that is consistently available 24/7. The advanced coal combustion plant, which uses ultra-supercritical technology, began operations near Hope in Hempstead County, Ark., in December 2012. SWEPCO also added peaking generation to its fleet through the 300-MW natural gas-fueled Harry D. Mattison Power Plant in Northwest Arkansas, which came on line in 2007; and intermediate generation from the 508-MW combined-cycle natural gas-fueled J. Lamar Stall Unit at Arsenal Hill in Shreveport, La., which came on line in 2010.
The company received Texas commission approval and transferred 7,000 retail electric customers in
five counties in the Texas Panhandle from AEP Texas to SWEPCO in 2007. The change was made because
these customers were located in the same regional reliability council known as the Southwest Power
Pool as the rest of SWEPCO’s East Texas customers. These new customers immediately saw lower
electric prices, with an estimated annual savings of about 15 to 20 percent depending on usage.
Additionally, SWEPCO finalized the purchase of Valley Electric Membership Corporation (VEMCO) in
October 2010. These 30,000 customers in eight northern and central Louisiana parishes also enjoy
electric rate savings of about 20 percent. Adding Valley’s service area greatly expands SWEPCO’s
geographic footprint in Louisiana and brings economic growth opportunities with the company’s lower
rates along the Interstate 49 and Toledo Bend corridors.
SWEPCO 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 over 200 communities
on its lines, representing a diverse 33,000-square mile service area of northern and central La.,
east and north Texas, and western Arkansas with a population of two million. There are 1,640
company employees supplying electricity to over 520,000 customers over 5,000 miles of transmission
lines and about 25,500 miles of distribution power lines.
SWEPCO has most recently purchased over 469,000 KW of long-term renewable power capacity from wind
farms in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, which will slightly lower the company’s overall cost to
customers starting in 2013.
SWEPCO is proud of its 100-year commitment to reliable rates at affordable prices for its customers,
and will continue to be a powerful company in the Ark-La-Tex.