History

Our History 

Seattle is known for its early pioneering efforts in the use of electricity and was one of the first locations to manufacture lighting systems and have electrified street railways. City Light has been lighting up the greater Seattle area since 1910. Check out where it all started and how we evolved over time to become a clean energy and environmental leader.


1879 - Invention of Incandescent Light Bulb 

1886 - First Incandescent Lighting System 

  • Seattle Electric Light Company (a private company unaffiliated with City Light) launches the first incandescent lighting system west of the Rockies. 

1900 - Multiple Seattle Electric Companies Consolidate 

  • With increasing adoption of alternating current technology which makes it possible to serve larger areas, competing companies get consolidated into the Seattle Electric Company (not affiliated with City Light). Rates at the time were six times greater than today's current residential rate. 

1902 - Approval of Bond to Develop First Hydroelectric Facility on the Cedar River 

  • A $590,000 bond was issued and marked the beginning of public power in Seattle and the nation's first municipally owned hydro project. 

1905 - Cedar Falls Generates Power Under Control of City Water Department 

  • Cedar Falls generates power, and because the plant performs well, the demand for municipal power increases.  

1910 - Seattle City Light is Born 

  • As the demand for power grows, it rises so dramatically that the Seattle City Council decides to create a separate lighting department - Seattle City Light. 

1911 - J.D. Ross Becomes Superintendent and Sets the Vision for the Future 

  • The new electric utility finds its future in the legendary James Delmage (J.D) Ross, often called the "Father of City Light." Ross envisions the Skagit River harnessed for Seattle by a series of three dams. 

1924 - City Light Dedicates its First Powerhouse

  • Ross works tirelessly before receiving the federal government's go-ahead for the Skagit Project. A railroad is built to get to the site. President Coolidge presses an electric button in the White House and the Gorge Dam generators begin sending electricity to Seattle. 

1951 - A Unified Power System is Formed within the City of Seattle

  • In 1951, Seattle voters approved buy-out of the privately owned competitors' Seattle territory. Seattle at last had a unified power system under one utility. 

1961 - Ross' Vision for Three Powerhouses and Dams is Complete 

  • Construction spanned four decades to build the Skagit Project. Today, these dams are still the heart of our water storage and generating facilities. 

1967 - Boundary Powerhouse and Dam Begin Operations 

  • After years of planning to meet anticipated demand for electricity, a larger hydro facility - the newly constructed Boundary Powerhouse and Dam - begins operation in eastern Washington.
  • Three factors begin to influence new directions for Seattle City Light: unprecedented demand, environmental concern, and drought. 

1977 - Major Droughts Spur New Era of Conservation 

  • A major drought hits the area, with more ahead in the '80s. Almost overnight, conservation becomes a high priority.  
  • With funding from the Bonneville Power Administration, City Light launches a series of programs that makes the utility a national leader in conservation. 

1980s - Focus is on Rate Stability and Diversity 

  • Regional power contracts bring new power from British Columbia, the Columbia Basin Irrigation Districts and the Olympic Peninsula. Regional ventures such as these not only control costs but reduce our dependence on power purchased from the Bonneville Power Administration. 

1995 - Relicensing of the Skagit River Hydroelectric Project 

  • Following many years of studies and negotiations, Seattle City Light achieves relicensing upon agreement with a diverse group of state, federal, tribal and environmental groups to help improve fisheries, wildlife, recreation, cultural resources and the visual environment near the Diablo, Gorge and Ross dams.

2005 - City Light Becomes the First Electric Utility in the Country to Achieve Zero Net Greenhouse Gas Emissions 

  • City Light has maintained carbon neutral status every year since.  
  • City Light achieves carbon neutrality by divesting ownership in a coal-fired plant and other fossil fuel projects, investing in renewables and increasing our long-standing energy efficiency programs.   
  • For the remaining emissions that we are unable to eliminate from our operations, the utility invests in carbon offsets. 

Present Day - City Light Looks to the Future of Energy 

  • City Light invests in Electric Vehicle infrastructure and Grid Modernization to plan for the future needs of Seattle City Light customers.