The South Australian Electric Light and Motive Power Co. Ltd., with a nominal capital of £20,000, was formed under the South Australian Companies Act with the object of supplying electricity for public and private purposes.


The Port Adelaide Council signed a ten-year contract with the South Australian Electric Light and Motive Power Company Ltd. to provide lighting for the area. The South Australian Electric Light and Motive Power Company Ltd. Act was passed.


A temporary powerhouse was built and completed by the company.


Streets in Port Adelaide had electric lights


The Electric Lighting and Traction Company of Australia Ltd., a London-based company, acquired the assets of the South Australian Electric Light and Motive Power Company Ltd. These assets included the 150 Kw. Power Station at Port Adelaide and the franchise to supply power to Port Adelaide and the city of Adelaide.

Pylons East of Booleroo Centre to Appila Road

24th August 1901


There are some people who talk much and do nothing; there are others who do much and say nothing. To the latter class belongs the engineer of the Electric Lighting and Traction Company of Australia Ltd.

Two years have elapsed since Mr. F. W. Wheadon arrived in Adelaide from London to take charge of the erection of the electric lighting plant of the city.......

...For a considerable time there was no visible sign of the work which was being carried out. But during this period the original company, the South Australian Electric Light and Motive Power Company Ltd., transferred the works and interest to the present company. Plans were drawn up, machinery was ordered, and everything made ready to proceed with the actual work in a systematic speedy manner. Experimenting formed no feature of the operations. The details once decided upon, gangs of men found active employment both inside and outside of the station in Grenfell Street.


The engine room is a large apartment, running the whole length of the Grenfell Street frontage. On entering it attention is immediately arrested by the huge switchboard of polished black marble, which occupies a tiled stage, with marble approaches at the eastern end of the room. The polished-copper switches and nickel fittings, and the numerous and mysterious instruments and symbols with which it is adorned,.......

Overhead is fixed a large permanent traveller, by means of which the heavy masses of machinery which have to be handled can be moved at will. On great concrete beds the bedplates of three large engines and dynamos repose all ready to receive the generators and their driving machinery as soon as the cement underground has became sufficiently dry to prevent the least movement.

One portion of the engine-room is in requisition as a workshop, and here the various machine tools in use are set up and driven by a small electro motor. The boiler- house to the rear of the engine-room contains three 250-horsepower Babcock and Wilcox boilers in their cases of firebricks. The great pipes for the conveyance of the steam at a pressure of 160 lb. to the square inch to the engine-room are in position, so also is the huge exhaust.

Provision has been made for the erection of economisers, and this work will be carried out later on. Coal bunkers are conveniently situated in the vicinity of the boilers, and a pump-house is also close by. This room contains two Weir pumps to supply the boilers, and overhead is a storage tank capable of holding 20,000 gallons of water - this being a provision rendered necessary in case of an accident to the water mains.

So far as the outside work is concerned, practically the whole of the underground cable has been laid. For some time men have been at work ripping up footpaths and burying chain after chain of lead - covered cable in slender coffins, which were then filled with melted pitch. It was interesting to note how smartly this work was carried out.

One gang of men broke up the pavement, another paid out the cable from the great drums on which it was rolled, another placed the protecting wooden troughs in position, filled them with pitch, and started to refill the trenches, while last of all came the pavement makers, putting every slab of slate or marble back in its proper place. About eight miles of cable has been buried, while the erection of 13 and a quarter miles of overhead wire has been almost completed.

The underground mains will supply all the principal streets of the city, and full provision has been made for the extension of the light wherever it may be needed......


The Adelaide Electric Supply Company Ltd. (AESC), which was incorporated in England with a paid-up capital of £180,000, took over SA section of the Electric Lighting and Traction Co. of Australia Ltd., including the 1897 franchise.


The management of The Adelaide Electric Supply Company Ltd. was transferred from England to South Australia and, shortly afterward, a Private Act, The Adelaide Electric Supply Company's Act 1922, was passed giving the company authority to operate in any part of the state. At the same time the company acquired the electricity related rights of Adelaide and Port Adelaide from the Electric Lighting and Traction Company Ltd.

24th April 1924


The residents of Clare, Riverton, Saddleworth, and adjoining townships, will shortly enjoy the advantage of electric light and power.

....A company has now been formed, however, with a capital of £75,000 with the definite purpose of installing an up to-date plant to light the three townships mentioned, together with Auburn and Watervale, and later Blyth and Manoora.....

The scheme provides for a central power house at Clare, from which that town will be supplied direct. Alternating current will be transmitted along high tension cables to supply Auburn, Saddleworth, and Riverton. A site has already been selected for the powerhouse in the vicinity or the Clare railway-station, and it is anticipated that the whole of the undertaking will be completed by July 1. 1925.....

5th December 1924


GLADSTONE, December 4th

A meeting of representatives of towns interested in the matter of electric lighting was held in the Memorial Hall .... the object of calling the meeting was to get an expression of feeling from the five towns concerned regarding the possibility of obtaining a supply of power from the Broken Hill Associated Smelter at Port Pirie. A report had been received giving the probable cost of a transmission line from Port Pirie to Gladstone, Georgetown, Laura, Caltowie, and Jamestown.

The following resolutions were carried: - That it be a recommendation to the local governing bodies concerned to co-operate on an equal basis in defraying the cost of obtaining an expert's report on the scheme for lighting

the five towns from the Broken Hill Associate Smelters at Port Pirie, the estimated cost of same having been obtained.

That the Broken Hill Associated Smelters, the Mid North Company, and Sir John Monash be written to asking if they are prepared to submit a report on the Broken Hill Associated Smelters scheme and the probable cost of same.

That it be a recommendation to each of the five towns to call a meeting of rate payers to appoint a local committee to deal with the lighting scheme, as suggested.

That the Adelaide Electric Supply Company be written to asking if they are in a position to light the five towns in the near future.


It became apparent that The Adelaide Electric Supply Company Ltd. had problems with access to a secure high-grade black coal supply from interstate or England. Also, conflict between shareholder dividends and pricing had delayed any increase to rural supply.


As a result of an inquiry it was found that lower grade bituminous Leigh Creek coal could be used in steam generating plants with modified boilers.

Premier Playford introduced a bill to establish an Electricity Commission on 7 December 1943.

5th June 1945


Charges Against Adelaide Supply Company

Accusations that the Adelaide Electric Supply Co., Limited, had repeatedly hampered certain activities of the Mid North Electricity Company, suggesting organised intrigue; ... and that it was an "unmerciful competitor,'" were made by Mr. William Armine Dingle, engineer of the Mid North Company, giving evidence at Parliament House yesterday, before the Royal Commission, which is investigating the distribution of electricity by the Adelaide Electric Supply Company....

..Mr. Dingle said that the Mid North Company had been established at Clare 21 years ago, when there was no suggestion of rural expansion in electricity supplied by a central power authority. The company's object had been to serve areas extending north and south of Clare, but ...the Adelaide company set up fierce competition for the custom in the various towns concerned.

In the final decision the Mid North Company had been beaten, because it had been unable to outbid the Adelaide company for the purchase of various franchises involved.

Notwithstanding increased burdens....it had been able to start generating electricity at Clare and delivering it as far south as Auburn, ... in recognition of the importance of electricity to the rural community, the Mid North Company ... had served Saddleworth and Riverton, and, eventually, Eudunda.

When faced with the expense of having to increase the capacity of its generating plant, his company had approached the Adelaide company.... purchase bulk electricity, but .... had been told that the Adelaide company desired to have no commercial dealings with it.

"Invasion" Alleged

A case of successful invasion by the Adelaide company into the Mid North Company's territory... was the supply of power to the flour mill at Marrabel, which had been....served by the Mid North Company for 18 years....

At present the free expansion of the use of electricity, and the progress of the State in that regard, were being stifled by the existing position....

Decentralisation Urged

In evidence. Mr. Horatio Hildabert Rees, engineer, and Mayor of Kapunda. said that industry must be decentralised if the State were to progress. To encourage that, the amenities and facilities given to city manufacturers should be extended to country manufacturers. If that were done, new industries would be begun in country towns and existing industries would be expanded, stopping the drift to the city.

He contended that the electricity charges for power and light should be the same in the city and the country, and that electricity should be provided for farmers and pastoralists to enable them to reduce costs of production..

...Mr. James William Harrod, engineer, and member of the State Electricity Commission, was cross examined at length by Mr. Ligertwood regarding evidence he had previously given before the commission. He admitted that it would have cost £122,000, either to the Adelaide Electric Supply Company or to the Government if the company had adopted Leigh Creek coal. He did not know that the company had been asked by the Government to install special boilers, which would have cost £200,000 to burn Leigh Creek coal....


The Royal Commission into The Adelaide Electric Supply Company Ltd. recommended that the assets of The Adelaide Electric Supply Company Ltd. be acquired and the shareholders compensated.

4th March 1946

Electricity's Big Part in Developing South Australia

The wide and rapid extension of electricity supply into remote country districts has proved a factor of incalculable value to the development of most rural industries.....

From the large, highly efficient power station at Osborne, electric mains radiate as far north as the Caltowie, Laura, Jamestown area (180 miles), North-East to Morgan (over 100 miles), to supply electric power for the Morgan-Whyalla pumping scheme, east to Mannun, and South to Rapid Bay......

In anticipation of the increased demand which will accrue for electricity as the housing shortage Is overcome and new Industries are established, the Adelaide Electric Supply Company is building a new power station at Osborne at an ultimate cost in the vicinity of £6.700,000. This new generating plant will supply all anticipated electricity requirements for many years to come.


The Electricity Trust of South Australia Act was proclaimed on 30 August, assuming the assets of The Adelaide Electric Supply Company Ltd.


ETSA acquired the assets of the Onkaparinga Electricity Supply Company Ltd.

ETSA became a South Australian state government authority and was delisted from the Stock Exchange.


ETSA took over the Mid North Electricity Company Ltd.

28th January 1950

Rural Briefs


Alternating current will be available in Peterborough when a £9,500 engine for generating the current and an alternator arrive from England. The engine left England this month.

8 November 1952

Power Expansion To Cost £35m.

Expenditure on electricity extensions and power stations in SA in the next five years would exceed £35m., the Premier (Mr. Playford) said last night...

....Future demands were being provided for by the construction of power stations at Port Augusta and Port Lincoln....

For the financial year ending June, 1953. extensions to the following rural areas have been authorised, and in some cases the work had already been completed.

Blewett Springs, Marble Hill, McLaren Vale, Scotts Creek, Smithfleld, Meadows. Waterloo Corner. Gawler. Millbrook. Hamley Bridge. Caltowie, Birdwood, Northfield, Woodside, Pompoota. Rosedale, Williamstown, Neeta, Kapunda, Angaston. Cowirra. Bridgewater, Lyndoch. Flaxley, Echunga, Concordia, Gurra Gurra, Dawsley. Freeling. Stanley Flat, Taylorville. Jacob's Creek. Bungaree, Kenton Valley, Willaston, Calcannia, Gumeracha. Upper Sturt, Mintaro, Ashton, Morgan, Aldinga, Greenhills, Bethany. Cherryville, Millbrook. Virginia, Briggs Flat, Cudlee Creek. Redhill, Dashwoods Gully, Loxton, Mannum South, Wistow. Daveyton, Longwood, Willunga, Dorrien. Mt McKenzie and Pine Point.

In addition, lines had been built, or were being built, to supply the pyrites mine at Nairne, the Mannum pipe line, and the irrigation and drainage pumps on the Upper and lower River Murray settlements.

Main transmission lines to supply the lower portions of Yorke Peninsula and the uranium field at Radium Hill were also being built.

Port Pirie was now supplied from the trust's lines, and power had also been made available to the Commonwealth Railways workshops at Port Augusta. An augmented supply to Port Augusta would soon be made available from the same supply lines.

A total of 63 rural extensions had been made during the year to country towns such as Spalding, Price, Two Wells, and to a large group of primary producers over a large area of the State.

Stobie poles outside Port Pirie


The Playford Power Station, capable of burning Leigh Creek coal, was commissioned for Port Augusta.


The Electricity Trust of South Australia was Privatised.

21st March 2012

South Australia's power prices set to become highest in world

A graph showing the high price of power in South Australia. Source: AdelaideNow

A report released today by the Energy Users Association of Australia, which compares 2011 household electricity prices in 92 countries, states or provinces, shows South Australian prices are the third highest behind Denmark and Germany.

Power line to a homestead at Appila

It had been found in South Australia and confirmed by American experience that if a farmer even had an all-electric home, but was more than a third of a mile from the transformer station, the line would not be payable.

Source: Advertiser 1928

The Playford Power Station at Port Augusta. Source: AdelaideNow

Stobie poles at Telowie

A Drive through
Mount Remarkable National Park
Napperby Block