Electrifying Ireland 1927-1978.

Our interactive map and database chronicles the rollout of electricity from the foundation of ESB in 1927 to the last Rural Electrification connections made in 1978. Discover how and when ESB electrified over 1,300 towns, villages and parishes and one million homes.

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Explanation about the information shown on map/database and where it was sourced can be found here>
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Click here to find out more about what the information on the map and database means and where was it sourced?

We’ve included information about the islands even though most of them were not connected to the grid until well after the 1970s. More about the islands here.

ESB Timeline 1927-1980
click chart above to enlarge

1927-1945: Ardnacrusha, Shannon Scheme, World War II

Generation and Transmission System Maps – click to view


In 1929 ESB began supplying the cities, towns and villages with electricity generated at Ardnacrusha and transmitted through the new national Shannon Scheme network.

ESB acquired Pigeon House, an oil burning station previously managed by Dublin Corporation Lighting Committee and Cork Station previously managed by by The Cork Electric Tramways and Lighting Company.

In 1931 a small fuel station with a 300 KW capacity was erected at Letterkenny. As the national network had not yet reached Donegal, it was considered more economic to erect this station.

World War II delayed plans for other hydro schemes but the Liffey Scheme began generating electricity in 1943.

1946-1964 : Rural Electrification, Hydro and Turf Programmes

Generation and Transmission System Maps – click to view

 


The immediate postwar era was concerned with recovery from the setbacks of war. In 1946 the Rural Electrification Scheme began connecting rural homes located beyond the towns and villages. By 1964 ESB had connected over 300,000 homes and businesses in all of its 792 rural areas.

As Ireland sought to become self sufficient and reduce the balance of payments deficit ESB developed turf and hydro programmes. The Turf Programme saw ESB open 10 turf stations in this period. By the 1960s turf accounted for one third of national electricity output.

There was further harnessing of Irish rivers for hydro electricity on the Lee and Erne . Two new large steam stations were opened in Marina in Cork and Ringsend in Dublin.

1965-1979: World Oil Crisis, Turlough Hill, One Million Connections

Generation and Transmission System Maps – click to view

 


1973 saw a dramatic upheaval in the world energy scene due to the oil crisis. In 1974 ESB opened its innovative hydro pumped storage station at Turlough Hill.

New large steam stations opened at Great Island, Tarbert and Poolbeg. In 1978 ESB began using natural gas, taken from the nearby Kinsale offshore gas field, as an energy source in the Marina station in Cork.

The Rural Electrification Scheme was extended following amendments to the Electricity Supply Act. This allowed homes, who missed out first time around, another chance to get connected on a subsidised basis. All 792 areas were systematically revisited and the scheme continued through various phases until 1978 when 99% of the country was electrified and our one millionth customer was connected.

 

MAP AND DATABASE HELP

Can I view a list of every town and village ordered by year connected?
Yes, you can filter and sort results in different ways using our database search.
Can the database tell me when my own home was first connected?
No. Our records do not include specific information on individual house connections but show when all towns, villages and ESB rural areas were first connected to the grid.
Why is my townland not listed on the map and database?
Your townland may have been part of an ESB rural area that included more than one townland. To find an unlisted townland, go to our map and look for the nearest ESB rural areas (green star) to your home. Click the green star and through to our website to see the townlands within the original boundaries.

IN THE BEGINNING

When was ESB established?
The Irish Free State Government passed the Electricity Supply Act in 1927, which created the Electricity Supply Board, the first semi-state body in Ireland on the 11th August 1927. ESB was responsible for the generation, distribution, transmission and marketing of electricity. Read more…
Was electricity available before ESB?
Yes. About 35,000 homes had electricity supplied by almost 200 local independent suppliers, the largest being Dublin Corporation who generated electricity at the Pigeon House. Read more…
When did electricity first come to Ireland?
In 1880 a street lamp was switched on outside the office of the Freeman’s Journal in Prince’s Street, Dublin 2. Later that year, the Dublin Electric Light Company was set up and soon powered lights in a small number of streets in the city centre. The first provincial town to get electric light was Carlow in 1891. Read more…
When did Ardnacrusha first supply electricity to the grid?
Ardnacrusha first began powering Irish towns on the 24th October,1929.

RURAL ELECTRIFICATION

When did the Rural Electrification Scheme begin?
The first pole of rural electrification was erected at Kilsallaghan, North Co. Dublin, on 5 November 1946. The first switch-on of a rural area took place the following January nearby in the village of Oldtown. Read more...
When did Rural Electrification end?
The original scheme ended in 1964. It was then extended to allow people who missed out the first time around a chance to reapply. When this second phase was completed, further extensions were approved and the scheme continued on a decreasingly smaller scale until 1978. The Black Valley in Kerry was one of the last mainland communities connected in December 1977.
What about the islands?
Islands that were close to the mainland (eg Achill) were connected as part of the Rural Electrification Scheme. Others used a local diesel generator with many connecting to the grid later. (eg Aran Islands). Read more…
How many rural homes were connected by the Scheme?
Over 300,000 homes (80% of rural households) were connected by the end of phase one in 1964. By 1978, 400,000 rural homes were connected.

GENERATION AND TRANSMISSION

What Irish rivers generate electricity for ESB?
The Shannon since 1929, the Liffey since 1943, the Erne since 1950, the Lee since 1952 and the Clady since 1959. Read more…
When did the first peat generation station open?
The first peat station to open was Portarlington in 1950. ESB opened ten more peat stations before 1965 by which stage peat accounted for one third of national electricity output. Read more…
When were the Poolbeg chimneys erected?
The first chimney came into operation in 1971, joined by the second one in 1978. Read more…
Where can I view high level generation and transmission maps?
A selection of original maps are available to view in our Timeline page.

For enquires please contact esbarchives@esb.ie
3 Comments
  1. Well done ESB, a great achievement. This incredible task was completed by sheer commitment, brains and outstanding manual labour. There was no fancy diggers or hydraulic lifting gear or four wheel drive transporters in those times. The company currently responsible for the roll out of broadband to all areas would do well to study how spectacularly the ESB changed for good the lives of everybody on this island.

  2. Well done, any info on the Galway Electric company in your archive?

    I recently visited Ardnacrusha and was very impressed by the way you are preserving our industrial heritage. Congratulations.

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