11 August-ESB (Electricity Supply Board)

The Electricity Supply Board (ESB) was established in Ireland under Electricity Supply Act of 1927. It was one of the first major industrial undertakings of the newly established Irish state. Its purpose was take charge of existing electrical schemes in Ireland and take responsibility for Shannon Hydro-Electric Scheme then under construction. Engineers, Mr Paddy Dowling, Linkardstown, Tinryland County Carlow and Mr William F. Roe, 25 Patrick Street Kilkenny, were among its first eleven employees.

During the 19th century Irish scientists played a major role in the development of electricity. In 1884 Charles Parsons, whose family were from Birr County Offaly and who was educated at Trinity College Dublin invented the first steam turbine. His invention made cheap and plentiful electricity possible for the first time. Fr Nicholas Callan Professor of Physics at Maynooth College developed an electric motor which Siemens in Germany used as a basis for the production of a generator in 1886.

However despite these developments by 1922 the provision of electrical power in Ireland was confined to places such as Dublin and other major centres of population. Smaller urban areas and most of rural Ireland did not have the benefit of electricity. For instance Carlow town had its own electricity supply from 1891, whereas it would be several more years before nearby Kilkenny City would have a supply of electricity.

From 1922 the Irish Government adopted a progressive approach to the provision of electricity. As part of that policy Patrick McGilligan (Minister for Industry and Commerce), despite sustained opposition, established the Shannon Hydro-Electric Scheme. The scheme, which was proposed by Dr Thomas McLoughlin from Drogheda, involved damming the river Shannon and building a power station at Ardnacrusha. Dr McLoughlin was later appointed as Managing Director of the ESB. Work began on the scheme in September 1925 and it was officially opened on July 22nd 1929. It was one of the largest engineering projects in the world at the time.

When completed the Shannon Scheme supplied electricity to the cities and larger towns in Ireland. Smaller villages and rural areas were not connected to the grid. The rural electrification scheme commenced on November 5th 1946 at Killsallagahan in County Dublin. The scheme was led by William Roe and Paddy Dowling. Electricity was gradually brought to all parts of the country until 2003 when the islands of Inishturbot and Inishturk off the west coast were finally connected to the national grid. Today the ESB is composed of several different companies and has almost 8,000 employees.

The Electricity Supply Board (ESB) was established to organize the supply of electricity in Ireland in the year 1927 On This Day.

Shannon Scheme photo

Siemens-Bauunion plant and machinery being unloaded at Limerick docks for Shannon hydro-electric scheme by National Library of Ireland on The Commons on 2011-03-25 20:41:55

Photo by National Library of Ireland on The Commons

Shannon Scheme photo

ESB at the ERF Trade Show RDS 1994

Photo by desomurchu archive gallery


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