The first person to write that "Queensland was the first colony in the Empire to have an electric supply" was (probably) an early lecturer in Mechanical and Electrical Engineering at the University of Queensland, Associate Professor A. Boyd, (1920-1950) [1]. The first electricity supply in Brisbane was in 1883.

The earliest public displays of electric lighting were in early 1882 at Sutton's foundry (corner Adelaide Street & Isles Lane) and later that year in Queen Street (between Eagle Street and Victoria Bridge). Electric lighting was installed and put on trial in April 1883 at the Government Printing Office in William Street. From April to June that year, contracts were signed to run underground mains using Edison 2-core 'street tubes' from a small power station near the Printing Office to supply direct-current electricity at 110 volts for lighting using brush arc lamps in the Parliamentary Buildings [2-4]. The installations were planned to take a few months. There were some initial difficulties, including an excessive voltage drop that necessitated increasing the size of the mains. The project to supply electricity reliably was nominally complete in July 1886. In July 1891, with extension to the Parliamentary Buildings in progress, a specification was prepared to double the capacity of the mains using 3-core Edison tubes. This work was completed in May 1892. E.G.C Barton, a government electrician, was responsible for the project.

Barton subsequently formed the company Barton and White to install a power station in Edison Lane, and in 1887, started the first public electricity supply in Australia - the first customers were the Post Office and the Gresham Hotel. Barton gave the first lecture on electricity in Brisbane and was a participant in the moves to create the University of Queensland and to ensure it included the study of Engineering.

The Barton and White Company was transformed into the Brisbane Electric Supply Company and eventually became the City Electric Light (CEL) Company in 1904. CEL later became the Southern Electricity Authority of Queensland, one of the predecessors of SEQEB and Energex.

When the Edison tubes were installed in 1883, the only cities in the world that had similar installations were New York and London (in 1882) so Brisbane was not far behind.  It seems therefore that Dr Boyd's statement is correct.

Emeritus Professor Mat Darveniza AO FTSE.


[1] A Boyd,