Thomas Edison actually patented a distribution system for electricity in 1880. Right around the turn of the century, his invention became widely available across the United States and other places of the developed world.
The first electricity generating station was a coal-burning plant established by Edison in 1882 but this only provided electricity for 59 recipients and merely powered light bulbs. Similar electric power plants began to spring up around the country but served only their immediate area. The first large power plant to send electricity across long distances was the hydroelectric plant established at Niagara Falls in 1896, which provided all types of power for Bufflalo, NY. As electricity generation took off, economies of scale meant that power production gradually transferred into the hands of large, private utility systems and away from smaller companies. The percentage of the country’s total electricity produced by these centralized utilites reached its peak in 1979 at 97%. Due to recent growth of non-utility electricity producers (such as industrial corporations), that rate had dropped to 91% by 1991.
Both of these answers are correct, but if depends on what you mean by ‘mass producing electricity.’ While Edison did invent distributed electricity- direct current (DC) in the 1880’s, distributed generation was based on a fleet of small scale generators, close to residential and commercial areas where the electricity was being used.
Nikolai Tesla is credited with inventing alternating current (AC) in 1887, which is what much of our electric grid is modeled after today. Alternating current uses a transformer, allowing for higher voltages to be transmitted over a power line without incurring a lot of transmission energy loss. His system placed large scale generation plants further away from the end customers, but was able to transmit electricity with little transmission loss and efficiently connect new users to the grid such that Edison’s DC system could not effectively compete.
So while Edison did father electric generation, Tesla is the father of our modern electric generation system.
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