History of electricity in Adelaide

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.

Many decades later in 1898, the foundation stone for the state’s first public power station was laid. The station in Port Adelaide provided electricity for the streets of the port well before the city of Adelaide even had electricity.

Two years later, the city of Adelaide was supplied with electricity from a coal-fired powerhouse constructed in Grenfell Street. In 1901, the Port Adelaide station closed and the Grenfell Street Power Station became the sole supplier for the city and its suburbs power.

In 1909, Adeliade experienced its first great blackout. You may think that the system itself malfunction 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 demand for more power was met with the opening of various substations across Adelaide. 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, a royal commission was set up by Premier Tom Playford who demanded an enquiry into the privately-owned electricity assets. The commission ordered that the private electricity monopoly be transferred to the government’s ownership. 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 there was no DeLorean time machine involved in this venture. One of the most controversial decisions in SA political history saw 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 divided it was no longer viable because it was operating as a part-time generator to meet higher demand in the summer. The decision was met with dismay from Port Augusta’s residents 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 state government announced a $500 million power plan and back up power stations.

The Metropolitan Story

During Adelaide’s electricity boom, electrical companies were popping up all over the state. In 1995, Metropolitan Plumbing was established to serve to state with quality plumbing services. Several years later, the company expanded and Metropolitan Electrical Contractors was born.

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*.


Published: 8 Jul, 2020

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