In London, electric light was first used in 1878. By 1882, over 50 companies had floated on the stock exchange and very considerable capital had been employed. A speculative phase arose, and significant losses were later suffered.
The first electric lights appeared in Dublin city in 1880. The Dublin Electric Light Company was floated as a public company.
The first use of electricity was as public lighting. At that time, most public lighting was gas fuelled.
The Electric Lighting Act 1882 started to regulate the electricity industry. Undertakers who provided electricity might be local authorities, companies, or persons. The Board of Trade granted licenses with the consent of local authority. Provisional orders could be granted without the consent of local authorities subject to parliamentary confirmation.
Local authorities were given the right to purchase the undertaking after 21 years, or every seven years thereafter at the then value of the work. The Electric Lighting Act 1888 provided for purchase of undertakers after 42 years at fair market value at that time. This Act stabilised the industry and led to an increase in the number of licences applied for and granted.
Local organisation of electricity was consistent with the technology then available. Local authorities played a major part in development of electricity in the United Kingdom. Ultimately, technology evolved and demanded greater scales than local areas could offer.
The Dublin Electric Light Company went into liquidation and was taken over by Alliance Gas Company. The company applied for a provisional order but was opposed by Dublin Corporation which intended to apply for an order itself. It was refused the order but given permission by the Board of Trade to spend monies on construction of a powerhouse in Hawkins Street to supply lighting to some of the city central streets.
The Corporation dominated electricity supply from this time onwards. It was given a provisional order for the supply of electricity under an e 1888 act and their coal-fired station at Fleet Street commenced operation by 1893. The street mains quickly extended considerably through the 1890.
At this time Dublin Corporation’s jurisdiction did not include municipal towns such as Rathmines and Pembroke. This limitation in jurisdiction limited the scope for the Corporation system. By 1904, Dublin Corporations had 650 consumers covering one and a half square miles.
The Fleet Street site was quickly proving inadequate for demand. A new site was chosen for a plant at the Pigeon House. This is fed by an underground cable to Fleet Street which supplied 19 substations within the city. The Pigeon House plants replaced Fleet Street in 1903.
In the 1908 the Dublin and Central Ireland Power Company was formed which sought a bill to authorise a peat-powered station on the Bog of Allen to supply the Dublin market.to generate electricity. It was promoted in the House of Commons and opposed by Dublin Corporation.
Corporation pressure ensured the company was prevented from operating within Dublin. The project never proceeded. A clause was inserted into the bill making the Corporation totally responsible for supplying power to Dublin
A scheme for harnessing Shannon was enacted under the Shannon Water and Electric Power Act 1901. It was seen as too costly and was quickly shelved.
The First World War arrested the expansion of electricity services to new customer. It was impossible to raise funds to expand the existing system.
At this time, most electricity was still used for lighting.
In 1921, the Dail and later provisional government set up a Commission of Inquiry into the resources and industry of Ireland. In 1921, an Irish committee of the UK government reported. Both reports came to the broad conclusion in favour of developing the country’s water resources for the use of electricity generation.
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