Our map provides details of how and when over 1,300 Irish towns, villages and parishes were connected to the national grid.
It charts the course of ESB’s rollout of electricity from its foundation in the midst of the Shannon Scheme construction 90 years ago, until 1978 when the last communities under the rural electrification scheme were connected.
This is just the beginning of an ongoing project and we will add more photos and information as we work through the digitising of our archive collection. If you have further photos or stories of electricity coming to your area then we’d love to hear from you. Our email is firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at: 353 1 6042146.
Before ESB and the Shannon Scheme
The major urban areas had electricity but their systems were local and limited; many hundreds of towns had no electricity at all and the rural community at large had no prospect of access to the benefits of electric power.
When ESB was formed in 1927, about 45,000 Irish homes and businesses already had an electricity connection. However, having electricity in your home was a privilege. It was very expensive and only available to those in urban areas or those close to the local small power station. Electricity generation, distribution and supply was owned and managed by approved electricity undertakers (typically a local authority or private business). These undertakers worked independently of each other and used different electrical systems with varying standards.
1929 – The Shannon Scheme starts connecting towns
The whole essence of the Shannon Scheme was to provide cheap electricity to as many people as possible everywhere in Ireland. While construction continued at the new generation station at Ardnacrusha, a new national grid network was being built to distribute its electricity in a standardised system to Irish cities and towns.
On 21st October, 1929 the power generated from Ardnacrusha station linked up with the new distribution network and began connecting the cities, towns and many large villages to the national grid. Within 5 months over 40,000 homes and businesses were connected to the grid.
Towns which had no previous electric power were the first to be connected to the new network.
Towns which had electricity before the Shannon Scheme normally took longer to be grid ready as they often required a re-engineering of their local network and installations. The local undertakings also had to be acquired by ESB. Over time, the small local stations were decommissioned as the local network became connected to the grid.
As demand increased with the growth in the number of areas and customers getting connected, the unit price of electricity continued to fall.
A further 300,000 homes connected by Rural Electrification 1946-65
By the end of World War 2 in 1945, there were still 400,000 Irish homes without electricity. That was 2 out of every 3 homes. These homes were in the truly rural areas of Ireland and so the Rural Electric Scheme began in 1946 to connect homes spread out over the 792 rural parishes.
By the end of the scheme in 1965, over 300,000 homes were connected using over 1 million poles and by 1975, 99% of Irish homes were connected to the grid.
For more on Rural Electrification click here.
For information on the sources used to compile this map, please follow click here .