The CLEVELAND ELECTRIC ILLUMINATING CO., now (2020) one of ten electric utility companies owned by Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp., was organized on 29 Sept. 1892 as the Cleveland General Electric Co.—the product of a merger between Brush Electric Light & Power Co. and the Cleveland Electric Light Co. The former, founded by inventor and electric light pioneer CHAS. F. BRUSH and others on 16 Mar. 1881, used Brush arc lamps to light PUBLIC SQUARE and several streets and stores. The Cleveland Electric Light Co., established on 21 June 1884, bought a power-generating station on Johnson St. (now Johnson Ct.) between Bank (now W. 6th) and Water (now W. 9th) streets and used the power to supply its Edison incandescent lights in several downtown stores. The new Cleveland General Electric Co. adopted the name of Cleveland Electric Illuminating Co. (CEI) on 21 July 1894. In 1895 the company built a generating plant on Canal Rd., considered "the most modern in the world." With offices in the CUYAHOGA BLDG., by 1910 it had 31,000 customers in a service area that included E. CLEVELAND, EUCLID, CLEVELAND HTS., LAKEWOOD and almost all of Cleveland. In 1911 CEI opened its Lake Shore steam generating plant at E. 70th St., and in Mar. 1913 the company moved into the new 15-story Illuminating Bldg. at 75 Public Square, which served as its headquarters until the move into another new Illuminating Bldg. at 55 Public Square in Feb. 1958. In the early 1940s, CEI began promoting Cleveland as "the best location in the nation" in hopes of attracting new industries to the area. In 1946 it purchased the Cleveland Light & Power Co., organized in 1893. CEI customers numbered 370,000 in 1946.
In Sept. 1967 CEI became a charter member of the Central Area Power Coordination Group (CAPCO), which included Toledo Edison, Ohio Edison, the Duquesne Light Co., and the Pennsylvania Power Co. CAPCO members pooled financial resources to build generating facilities.
The 1970s were a difficult period for the company, marked by clashes with consumer groups over rate increases and environmental groups over the dangers of pollution and nuclear power. A long dispute with the City of Cleveland over relations with the city's municipal light plant culminated in an antitrust suit against CEI filed by the city in 1975, a suit that the city eventually lost. In 1974 CEI began construction of the Perry Nuclear Power Plant near North Perry, OH, and in 1978 service began from the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station in Oak Harbor, OH (now owned by Energy Harbor, an independent power producer formerly known as FirstEnergy Solutions). CEI became affiliated with Toledo Edison in April 1986 with the formation of Centerior Energy Corp. That relationship lasted until 1997 when Centerior merged with Ohio Edison to form FirstEnergy Corp. Cleveland Electric Illuminating Co. currently serves more than 750,000 electric utility customers in five Northeast Ohio counties.
Updated by Christopher Roy
Last updated: 6/4/2020
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Finding aid for the Centerior Energy Corporation Records, WHRS.
Finding aid for the Centerior Energy Corporation Photographs, WRHS.