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Southern Oregon electric companies started in 1800s

After reading your tremendous missive on street lights in White City, I have a question to ask. Can you shine some light on whether the power company that serves Medford is “Pacific Power” or “Pacific Power & Light” or both?

— Rob B., Medford

You have come to the right place, Rob, to ask about power — the all-powerful Wizards of SYA (just don't look behind the curtain). Here's what we came up with, thanks to the good folks at ... well, you'll have to read on to find out what the company name is:

First, a bit of history: Locally, the roots of PacifiCorp, the corporate parent of our electricity provider, go back into the 1800s. The first power company in Southern Oregon was Ashland Electric Power and Light Co., founded in 1888, although the first electrical power in the region was generated in 1882 by a private flour mill near Klamath Falls. There were numerous small companies to begin with: the Ashland company, the Medford Electric Co. (1894), The Siskiyou Electric Power Co. (1902) and the Condor Water and Power Co., which began operating Gold Ray Dam in 1904 and later became the Rogue River Electric Co.

After a number of consolidations, they eventually joined forces in 1912 as the California-Oregon Power Co. (Copco), whose name is still evident in the Copco dams on the Klamath River and Copco Lake, created by one of the dams.

Meanwhile. a company called Pacific Power & Light was formed in 1910 by combining small utility companies in Astoria, Pendleton, Walla Walla and Yakima. A half-century later, in 1961, Copco and PP&L merged, keeping the Pacific Power & Light name.

And that was the company's name until 1989, when it merged with Utah Power & Light and continued doing business as Pacific Power and Utah Power. The word “light” was dropped from both company names. In 2001, PacifiCorp was purchased by Scottish Power and in 2006 by Berkshire Hathaway Energy.

So there you have it in a nutshell, Rob (and kudos for the "shine some light on..." portion of your question). The company that sends you a monthly bill is called Pacific Power. But we suspect the acronym PP&L won't drop from our lexicon for another couple of decades, regardless of where the corporate power really lies.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. To see a collection of columns, go to mailtribune.com/youasked. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.