The Economics of Aesthetics at Southern California Edison

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In August 1965, Electrical World ran a special issue on “Operation Beautility”, a dynamic program dedicated to improving the appearance of electrical facilities across the nation. Following on from President Lyndon B. Johnson’s high profile White House Conference on Natural Beauty held in May that year, Electrical World outlined the problem facing utility companies across the country: “energy itself is invisible,” but “we cannot have it without power plants, switching stations, substations, transmission and distribution networks” cluttering the environment. The campaign for “beautification” led by LBJ’s wife “Lady Bird” Johnson swept the nation in 1965, focusing attention on the tangle of overhead lines, billboards, litter and junkyards cluttering the American landscape, and leading to the Highway Beautification Act in 1965. The “beautification” movement ushered in a new phase for utility companies, increasingly under pressure from environmentalists, regulatory bodies and the public, who protested against the continued expansion of energy facilities into increasingly urbanized districts. During this period, private utilities, such as Southern California Edison, incorporated aesthetics into their public relations campaigns in an effort to manage an increasingly strained relationship with its consumer base. From 1965 onwards, Southern California Edison put into action a range of programs to improve the appearance of its electrical facilities, ranging from repainting to launching new design models for transmission lines and converting overhead lines to underground systems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-62
Number of pages21
JournalEnvironment, Space, Place
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2018
Externally publishedYes


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