Shedding light on P.E.I. power supply companies over 170 years

Posted on December 08, 2023 | By Alexander Chafe | 0 Comments


Queen Square in Charlottetown, P.E.I. in 1863, a time when the area was likely lit by gas lamps (photo credit: Public Archives and Records Office)


From candles and gas lamps to electric light bulbs, the illuminating history of light and power companies on Prince Edward Island dates back over one and a half centuries. Once managed by its own gaslight corporation, the province now receives its power supply from Maritime Electric.

Early days

In the nineteenth century, residents of Charlottetown, P.E.I. used candles and whale oil lamps to light their homes. Streets were lit with lamps and torches. While North American cities began using gas lighting as early as 1816, adoption was slower in Charlottetown. However, on April 16, 1853, Charlottetown Gaslight Company was incorporated and began lighting homes throughout the city.

Within the first year, 60 homes adopted gas lighting and in 1859 the organization constructed its first gas-lit lamps on Queen and Grafton Streets. Charlottetown Gaslight Company expanded its presence over time and had a monopoly on the market until 1885 when Royal Electric Company from Quebec took over and brought electricity to Charlottetown.

The Royal Electric Company was soon joined in the market by The Full Electric Company and Prince Edward Island Electric Company was later formed to construct an electrical generating plant. In the late 1890s, these three companies purchased the assets of Charlottetown Gaslight Company after it ceased operations and in 1901 joined forces to form Charlottetown Light and Power.


Maritime Electric in 1926 (photo credit: Maritime Electric Collection)

New player

In 1917, Maritime Electric was incorporated in Fredericton, New Brunswick. The following year, the organization entered the Prince Edward Island market with the purchase of Charlottetown Light and Power. Wanting to grow, in 1931 Maritime Electric began to expand its service to rural areas of P.E.I.

While Charlottetown received a consistent supply of electricity in the late 19th century, this wasn’t the case for many cities across the province. Some areas created electricity using privately held hydroelectric generators, which were slowly acquired by Maritime Electric through the purchase of nine rural electric companies like Montague Electric and Scales Hydro. It wasn’t until the late 1960s that the whole province received electricity.


Old Maritime Electric signage (photo credit: Maritime Electric)

Increase capacity

Over time, Maritime Electric continued to expand its reach across the island, as well as increase the capacity and efficiency of its equipment to make electricity more affordable. In 1977, it installed a submarine cable connection between P.E.I. and NB Power’s electricity supply to meet power demands throughout the province.

In 1990, N.L.-based utility Fortis Inc. purchased Maritime Electric, which still operates as an indirect wholly-owned subsidiary of Fortis.

Modern Maritime Electric logo, now a Fortis company (photo credit: Maritime Electric) 

Continued connection

Today, Maritime Electric remains the primary electric utility in Prince Edward Island with over 80,000 customers across the province. The island’s remaining population is serviced by the City of Summerside, which operates its own utility.

While everyone enjoys the convenience of modern electricity today, light and power generation has certainly come a long way on P.E.I. over the past 170 years.

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