History of Electricity

While the electricity sector continues to transform at a rapid pace, it has always been the great enabler of modern society. Look back at the past 130 years for a snapshot of Canadian electricity's history.

  • 1820
  • 01 1821 full


    In England, Michael Faraday made the first dynamo / first generates electricity.

  • 1850
  • FE Aw W 2 WUAQ7s39


    The first Canadian transmission pipeline was built.

  • 1870
  • 03 1873 double


    The first arc lamp was switched on in front of the Davis Hotel in Winnipeg making it the first record of electric light in Canada.

  • 04 1876 half


    Alexander Graham Bell made the first long distance telephone call from Paris, Ontario to Brantford.

  • 05 1878 half


    The American Electric and Illuminating Company was formed in Montreal. This was the first record of an electric utility company in Canada.

  • 1880
  • 06 1880 double


    The Manitoba Electric & Gas Light Company was incorporated with a broad charter to “supply light and heat in Manitoba by gas, electricity or by other means.”

  • 07 1881 half


    Hydro-electric power becomes the first form of commercial electricity in Canada.

  • 1881

    The first Canadian made electric generator was built by J.J. Wright and supplied to the Eaton department store at Queen and Yonge.

  • 08 1881 full


    At Chaudière Falls on the Ottawa River, Thomas Ahearn and Warren Y. Soper built Canada’s first water-powered electricity generating station.

  • 09 1881 half


    The Niagara Falls Hydraulic Power and Manufacturing Company established a small hydro generation facility which provided electricity to the Village of Niagara Falls and to the mills on the American side of the river.

  • 10 1882 half


    The Parliament Buildings in Ottawa are lit with electricity, a full year before the U.S. Capitol Buildings in Washington, D.C.

  • 11 1882 full


    Thomas Edison installed the world’s first central steam-generation electricity plant in New York City’s financial district.

  • 1885

    The City of Ottawa made a contract with the Ottawa Electric Light Company for the illumination of all its streets with arc lamps, thus becoming the first city in North America to achieve this distinction.

  • 12 1886 half


    The first streetlights in Montreal were installed, totalling 113 lamps.

  • 1890
  • 13 1891 full


    The Canadian Electrical Association was formed, a clear sign that the emerging electrical industry was starting to find its feet.

  • 14 1891 half


    Generating Station No. 2 (today an asset of Energy Ottawa) was built on Victoria Island. It holds the distinction of being Canada's oldest operating hydroelectric station.

  • 15 1893 half


    Water was diverted from the Canadian side of the Niagara River for generating electricity.

  • 16 1893 full


    Canada's first electric car was commissioned by Toronto attorney, Frederick Fetherstonhaugh.

  • 17 1895 half


    Adam No. 1 station in the Niagara region – built with contributions from legendary electricity pioneers such as George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla – became the first large-scale alternating current (AC) generation plant in the world. This is widely considered to be the advent of modern grid operations, as AC power could be transmitted over much farther distances than DC, with fewer losses along the way.

  • 18 1898 half


    B.C Electric built its first hydro-electric plant at Goldstream, Victoria.

  • 1900
  • 19 1903 half


    British Columbia’s first hydroelectric station opened at Buntzen Lake with a 27-kilometer transmission connection to Vancouver.

  • 20 1909 full


    First international transmission line opened between Canada and the United States.

  • 1910
  • 20 1912 double


    The Steel Company of Canada opened the world’s first all-electric steel mill, revolutionizing the electricity industry.

  • 1918

    Canada launched the world’s first electrically welded ship.

  • 1920
  • 22 1921 full


    Ontario Hydro became the largest utility in the world with the completion of the first hydro plant at Niagara Falls.

  • 1930
  • 23 1932 half


    The trans-Canada phone system was inaugurated, connecting the country.

  • 1950
  • 1951

    The first Canadian thermal-electric (coal-burning) power station with an installed capacity of 1 million kW was put in service in Toronto.

  • 24 1954 half


    The first practical solar panel was invented.

  • 1960
  • 25 1962 half


    Canada's first nuclear power plant, the Nuclear Power Demonstration Plant, was opened in Rolphton, Ontario.

  • 26 1968 double


    North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC) was formed.

  • 1980
  • 27 1983 half


    The Bloodvein Indian Reserve on the east side of Lake Winnipeg was the first of several native communities that switched from diesel generation to the provincial power system.

  • 28 1984 full


    The Annapolis Royal Generating Station was a tidal power generating station in the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia, was built.

  • 1990
  • 29 1993 half


    The first commercial wind farm in Canada was completed in Alberta.

  • 2000
  • 30 2002 half


    Work begins on a third unit at the Genesee Generating Station. This was the first coal-fired unit in Canada to use supercritical boiler technology.

  • 31 2009 full


    Canada’ first solar farm, the Arnprior Solar Project, was built.

  • 2010
  • 32 2010 full


    Canada’s largest photovoltaic plant, Sarnia Photovoltaic Power Plant, was built.

  • 2013

    80 per cent of Canadian electricity is produced greenhouse gas free.

  • 33 2014 half


    SaskPower’s Boundary Dam facility becomes the first power plant in the world to integrate carbon capture and storage technology.

  • 34 2016 full


    North America’s first tidal turbine was installed by Cape Sharp Tidal.

  • 35 2017 half


    NB Power officially launched the eCharge Network. The corridor connects New Brunswick with the neighboring provinces of Quebec and Nova Scotia, ensuring seamless charging for both residents and visitors with electric vehicles.

  • 36 2019 full


    The world's first fully electric commercial airplane took off in Vancouver.

  • 2020
  • 2021

    Canada's first Floating Tidal Energy Array launched near the Bay of Fundy.

  • 37 2021 full


    Hydro One and Ontario Power Generation partnered to launch Ivy Charging Network, which will be Ontario’s largest electrical vehicle fast-charger network.

  • 38 2021 full


    ENMAX Energy introduces Canada’s first Hybrid Electric Gas Turbine.