The History of Electricity in Perth

Perth had a slow start to life despite eventually becoming Australia’s fourth largest city. When Queen Victoria first proclaimed Perth a city in 1856 only a few thousand people lived there. It would then be another 30 years before the gold rush brought Western Australia to life.

Once the boom period of the 1880s and 1890s struck, Perth enjoyed rapid growth – and the arrival of electricity.

From Humble Beginnings to the Gold Rush (1800s)

Perth, Fremantle and Guildford were the first settlements established among the Swan River Colony in 1829, welcoming a few hundred new locals. About 20 years later the state opened itself up to convicts, welcoming roughly 10,000.

The introduction of a telegraph line to Adelaide simplified interstate communications in the 1870s, while a local railway finally provided fast transportation.

Still, growth was small. It really wasn’t until Charles Hall and Jack Slattery struck gold about 2,600km away that things began to change.

The pair discovered gold in the Kimberly region in 1885, the first major find in WA. Over the next seven years, the gold rush exploded, headlined by exciting discoveries at Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie.

Thousands of prospectors from interstate and overseas flooded west, helping Western Australia’s population grow to 184,000 by 1901.

Not all of that growth occurred in Perth, though. The coastal city was 600km away from Kalgoorlie and home to a humble 27,000 people. Regardless, the mining boom had brought one important man west. CJ Otte, arguably the first electrician in Perth.

Otte owned the Perth Electric Light and Power Company, becoming the first electricity provider in Perth in 1888. To begin with, he only powered his home, which is a pretty good work benefit!

Three years later the Perth Town Hall was buzzing with electricity, and Perth had its first electric streetlights in 1892.

By 1894, Otte had serious competition too, as the Perth Gas Company built Perth’s first major power station on Wellington Street.

Perth Embraces Electrical Growth (1900s-1950s)

Outside of Perth’s CBD, the growing city enjoyed widespread electrical advancement. The Fremantle Gas and Coke Company had a power plant in their burgeoning port town, while the Claremont Power Station opened in 1900.

The City of Perth also began construction on the East Perth Power Station in 1913. The four year project provided Perth with power for decades to come. Located by the Swan River and main railway, it was in a prime position to receive coal – and offer Perth electricians a nice lunchtime view.

Production finally ended in 1982. To this day the site has remained relatively untouched, and the heritage listed building will retain much of its charm despite planned commercial and residential redevelopments.

Its historical importance is amplified by a diverse history. It witnessed all major electrical advancements and has remained home to some iconic and historic machinery.

Meanwhile, located a few hundred kilometres south of Perth, is the Wellington Hydro Power Station.

First constructed in 1933, the dam redeveloped into a hydroelectric power station in the 1950s. It supplied power to local towns throughout the southern wheatbelt region, feeding off water from the Collie River.

The Collie name is closely linked to Western Australia’s power boom, with the Collie sub-basin a fuel source for many coal-fired power stations in the south-west.

The City of Light (1950s-1980s)

The Collie sub-basin’s deep coal reserves have powered Western Australia for decades. WA’s oldest running powerplant is the Muja Power Station, located near Collie.

Muja was constructed in 1966 and survived more recent calls to be decommissioned in 2018. Although, by 2024, Muja D will be the only active unit at the station after the closure of Muja C.

During the 1960s Perth also achieved the fitting moniker as the City of Light. How? In 1962 astronaut John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth in the Friendship 7 spacecraft.

As he flew over Perth, the entire city turned on their lights to acknowledge his flyby. Glenn saw Perth’s big beacon from space and City of Light nickname was born.

Western Australia Diversifies (1990s-present)

After several mergers, the WA Government privatised its power assets in 1995. As a result, Alinta Gas and the Western Power Corporation were born.

Over 20 years later and Alinta Energy is the largest privately-owned energy company in WA and has enjoyed rapid growth across other Australian states.

Alongside owning several traditional coal and gas power stations, Alinta has constructed Western Australia’s largest wind farm, Yandin. It’s their first investment into renewable energy, one that will help keep the state at the forefront of electricity supply.

On the other side of the split, the Western Power Corporation again diversified in 2006, becoming Synergy and Verve Energy (who merged in 2014), Western Power and Horizon.

Now, Perth’s future could easily be in the world of renewables. The 1990s saw the construction of Ten Mile Lagoon Wind Farm, Australia’s first commercial wind farm. It’s one of several active wind and solar farms in WA, including a handful owned by Synergy.

If the current trajectory continues, the City of Light will be the brightest in all of Australia.

Metropolitan Electrical Is Ready For The Future

Whatever happens next, Metropolitan Electrical Contractors Perth are ready. Our technicians receive regular training to keep up with the latest technology, including solar power and smart homes.

You can trust them for any electrical job, knowing they are fully licensed. With over 25 years of experience, Metropolitan Electrical Contractors are your trusted home of Perth electricians. So forget about searching for ‘electricians Perth‘ and book in with us today!

When you need to book in a job for electric hot water systems, switchboard repairs or anything in between, you can call us. We’ll be there within an hour* of your call and are ready to go, 24/7.  Day or night, after hours or the weekend, we promise that you won’t pay extra.


Published: 1 Sep, 2020

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