E.ON's history of electricity

Posted 08/02/2019 by E.ON

Today many of us take energy for granted, but as the sun set across Godalming on the evening of the 26th September 1881, residents of the small Surrey market town left their homes and stepped out- not into darkness - but into the glare of thousands of candles-worth of illumination. 

Godalming had just brought the world's first-ever public energy supply and electric street lighting online.

Made up of four Arc lamps and 27 incandescent bulbs, supplied with renewable energy generated by waterwheel at the nearby Westbrook Mill, the scheme soon expanded to installations in major local business - from the tanners to the grocers, the drapers and the bank. Thanks to the Godalming Borough Lighting Committee electricity was now for sale to any member of the public who wished to buy it.

 old eon powerplant

Nationalisation and privatisation 

A year later the creation of the Electric Lighting Act saw a boom in the number of suppliers being set up across the country and by the mid-1920s the British government began laying 4,000 miles of cables, connecting the 122 most efficient power stations, in order to form the unified National Grid.

Around twenty years later the industry was nationalised (creating regional electricity boards – including the East Midlands Electricity Board, which decades later was renamed to E.ON) and then privatised in the 1980s. 

East Midlands Electricity was created as part of that privatisation and subsequently the name was changed to Powergen (you'll maybe remember the Powergen Cup in rugby or even our sponsorship of the ITV national weather). In 2002, Powergen was renamed to E.ON, becoming part of the wider E.ON group, today one of the world's largest private energy groups; continuing to drive forward energy innovation for a more sustainable future.


 eon electronic vehicle charging station

E.ON today

In the UK we've invested more than £2.5 billion in renewable energy in the last decade and operate 20 wind farms that together produce enough electricity to power 800,000 homes. With the addition of biomass (including one of the UK's largest biomass power stations at Lockerbie) around 90% of the energy we generate now comes from renewable sources.

Building a sustainable future involves all of us, and the next step is to support our customers in taking greater ownership over their energy supply through everything from smart meters to home solar panels and solar battery storage - allowing customers to self-sufficiently power their own heat pumps, or even electric vehicles. 

The potential of the scale is easy to see: in Germany 1.7 million homes are already equipped with home solar panels - and 30% of the overall renewable supply is connected to our network. In future, this combination of smart metering and home energy-generation will allow us to use artificial intelligence to better predict supply and demand to optimise the distribution of electricity both at the small scale of each distributed energy centre - and across the entire network.

The creation of a national grid transformed the UK's energy system by connecting suppliers and customers across the country - but connected doesn't have to mean centralised. The future of energy is intelligent and connected and, like its origins in Godalming, the future of energy is local.

eon heritage timeline

Energy has come a long way since the first lights illuminated a small town in Surrey more than 130 years ago and it's now in your hands, from generating your own energy at home to finding a more suitable tariff. Embrace a future that works for you.


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