History of Electricity in Adelaide
A detailed history of Adelaide’s electricity network and advances from the early settlement to the modern world we live in today.
The First Use of Electricity (1855 – 1944)
The first private use of electricity was recorded in 1855 by Mr Hullet of Port Augusta when built a hydroelectric plant to illuminate his dining room. Now you may wonder what this has to do with the history of electricity in Adelaide, but in fact, Mr Hullet’s story would play a central role in the state’s electricity story.
1897 saw the next major step in the development of a running electricity supply in South Australia. At the end of the year, the South Australian Parliament authorised the formation of a privately owned company to build a new power station that would supply power to the Port Adelaide area. And so the South Australian Electric Light and Motive Power Company was born.
In 1898, the newly-formed company built the first public power station. Located in a small stable on the corner of Lipson and St Vincent Streets in Port Adelaide, this temporary station delivered power to the streets of the port well before the city of Adelaide even had electricity.
The New Power Generation and the Grenfell Street Power Station
In June 1899, the history of electricity in Adelaide saw a major development. The temporary power station was relocated to a purpose-built site on Nile Street. Later that year, the UK-based English Brush Electrical Engineering Company Ltd bought out the South Australian Electric Light and Motive Power Company. Before too long, they locked down an agreement to supply electric power for lighting on King William Street and the connection of private customers. They built a coal-fired powerhouse constructed on Grenfell Street that became the sole supplier of the city and its suburbs power. In 1901, the Port Adelaide station closed.
1905 saw the incorporation and renaming of the South Australian Electric Light and Motive Power Company to become the Adelaide Electric Supply Company Ltd (AESCo).
In 1909, Adelaide experienced its first great blackout. You may think the system malfunctioned, but that was not the case. Funnily enough, an operator at the Grenfell Street Power Station tripped and knocked the master switch which plunged the city into darkness.
By 1926, the opening of various substations across Adelaide helped to meet the demand for more power across the city. This evolution extended the transmission of power into rural areas and saw the birth of the stobie pole.
An Electrical Revolution (1944 – today)
In 1944, state Premier Tom Playford established a royal commission, demanding an enquiry into the privately-owned electricity assets. The commission ordered that the state government take ownership of the private electricity monopoly. And just like that, the Electricity Trust of SA (ETSA) was born.
Over the next few decades, a series of power stations would arise across the state to further the power network. In 1971, power prices increased for the first time in 19 years with domestic bills rising by 5%.
In 1999, the state went back to the future. Although no DeLorean time machine was involved in this venture. One of the most controversial decisions in South Australia’s political history was the privatisation of ETSA. This meant that the state’s electrical assets were broken into separate transmission entities.
Two years later, the Howard government introduced mandatory renewable energy targeting. And just two years after that, South Australia’s first major wind farm began to spin. In 2016, the last coal-fired generator at Port Augusta shut down. The plant’s owners had decided it was no longer viable because it was operating as a part-time generator to meet higher demand in the summer. The decision disappointed the residents of Port Augusta because it was the city’s biggest employer.
In 2016, the entire state lost power for days on end in the aftermath of a severe storm. To prevent further blackouts, the South Australian Government announced a $500 million power plan and backup power stations.
The Metropolitan Story
During Adelaide’s electricity supply boom, electrical companies were popping up all over the state. 1995, saw the birth of Metropolitan Plumbing to serve to state with quality plumbing services. Several years later, the company expanded and Metropolitan Electrical Contractors was born. And we’ve been part of the history of electricity in Adelaide ever since.
Since then, we have been delivering top-quality services to tens of thousands of our customers. No electrical job is too big or too small for our team of local experts across the nation. If you need a ‘local Adelaide electrician‘, then look no further. We operate 24/7, every day of the year and can even dispatch an electrician to your door within the hour*.