Community Commitment
April 23, 2024

The face of electricity: Celebrating 98 years of Reddy Kilowatt

Looking back at the long history of your electric servant and our Energy Ambassador

Reddy Kilowatt has been the voice of benefits and safe practices around electricity for nearly a century. During that time, Reddy has gone from sole representative of an Alabama utility to the widely known mascot of the Edison Electric Institute to the proud Energy Ambassador for Xcel Energy. As we celebrate his 98th birthday this year, we’re looking back at the long and storied history of the friendly-faced Reddy Kilowatt. 

Reddy was created in 1926 by Ashton Collins Sr., a general commercial manager for Alabama Power Co. (APC) in Birmingham, Alabama. At the time, electricity was still a new technology, and APC wanted to increase demand for electrical power in their service area – especially in rural communities, which were still largely underserved. To grow the appeal of electricity, APC needed a friendly face to tout its benefits and to underline the need for safe practices. This was a world that needed a Reddy Kilowatt to lead the way. 

When Reddy Kilowatt charged onto the scene on March 14, 1926, a hero for the ages was born. Legend has it that the idea for Reddy was hatched during a thunderstorm when Collins reportedly saw bolts of lightning converge to form what looked like arms and legs. In his early iterations, Reddy had five arms, symbolizing electricity’s ability to be everywhere at once.
With the onset of the Great Depression, demand for electrification slowed. In response, a group of investor-owned utilities from around the country banded together to form the Edison Electric Institute (EEI); the group would travel the U.S., highlighting the benefits of electricity. Reddy was along for the ride the whole time. Each of those EEI utilities signed a licensing agreement to use Reddy as long as they agreed to keep him “genial, likeable, well-mannered, even-tempered and in generally accepted standards of good taste.” For his part, Reddy never missed a step and became widely known as the face of electricity across the nation. 
Reddy continued to evolve over the years (he downsized to a much more manageable set of two arms) and was refined throughout the 1930s and '40s. Minnesotans, Texans and Coloradans will remember Reddy’s new look, the one we all know and love, that came after World War II. Of course, he’ll never take off his official safety gloves, and his grounded shoes help him keep pace. Some of you might even know his theme song.
In 1998, Reddy officially took his talents, including his entire copyright and intellectual property to one utility: Northern States Power Company (NSP). When NSP and New Century Energies merged in 2000 to become Xcel Energy, Reddy became our official Energy Ambassador.  

For the past two decades, Reddy has been actively involved in education, sharing his insights and expertise on the energy industry and the benefits of electrification. As he turns 98 this year, he is ready to inspire a new generation of energy consumers and innovators. Watch out for Reddy as he appears in various platforms, offering advice on how to use electricity safely and efficiently. 
Reddy and Reddy Kilowatt are trademarks of the Reddy Kilowatt Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Xcel Energy Inc.