Electric History Narrative

"On Thursday evening of this week occurred the celebration of the introduction of electrical illumination in the city of Anaheim. It was a brilliant success from beginning to end, and general expressions of enthusiastic congratulations were to be heard on every hand.

The occasion has proved once for all that the citizens of Anaheim are not stoically dead, but can become just as enthusiastic when the case requires it as the people of other places."
An old photo of a power source
- W.A. Rugg, The Independent, discusses the launching of electricity in the City of Anaheim on April 13, 1895.

An Historical Narrative
Anaheim has always been a unique city, a pioneering community that prides itself on the foresight of its leaders and the commitment of its citizens to pursue a vision of innovation, independence and initiative in building a better place in which to live, work, and play.

One such visionary was a prominent citizen by the name of Lemuel Goldwater. On May 22, 1894, he proposed to the Board of Trustees meeting that an electric light plant be established in Anaheim.
Together with an associate from Los Angeles, Goldwater put together an offer for their company to construct and operate an electric light plant in the city. They proposed operating a system of ten street lamps at $125 a month, a considerable sum for those days.
An old photo of a room with electricity equipment
The Board of Trustees considered Mr. Goldwater's proposition with interest, but balked at the rates proposed. One member of the Board claimed that the city "could easily maintain the plant on its own account." In June 1894, after failing to come to terms on this investor-backed proposal, the city decided to embark on a municipally-backed project to bring electricity to Anaheim.

Electrifying Anaheim

A visiting engineer, E. C. Sharpe, had been sent to Anaheim by an outside concern to do a feasibility study on electrifying Anaheim. The Board of Trustees invited Mr. Sharpe to remain and draw up plans and specifications for a new municipal plant. Sharpe would become the city's first electrical engineer, and the plant would mark the opening of the first municipally-owned electric utility in not only Orange County, but all of Southern California.

On April 11, 1895, the municipal electric system commenced operation, serving a consumer base of 145 incandescent bulbs and 22 arc lamps. At the time, consumers paid a rate of 30 cents per kilowatt hour. Today, Anaheim residents pay the lowest rates in Orange County, averaging about 10 cents per kilowatt hour – more than 25% lower than in surrounding communities.

As the new century began, the Anaheim Electric Utility found itself faced with increased demands for both lighting and electric power. This forced an unusual arrangement with the Santa Ana Gas and Electric Company (SAG&E). This outside utility was permitted to construct a distribution system in the city to sell electricity for power and heat. The Anaheim Electric Utility, however, retained the sole rights to sell electricity for lighting purposes. This arrangement took the immediate pressure off the city-owned electric light plant.

Light Plant

In 1907, a new electric light plant was completed. Until this time, the utility only offered its customers electricity from dusk until as late as midnight, depending upon the plan selected. With increased capacity, the modern plant was able to offer the city 24-hour service for the first time and reduce rates to 10 cents per kilowatt hour.

In 1916, the city negotiated to purchase all of its power from Southern California Edison Company. Substantial rate hikes by Edison and various business practices led to rate challenges and anti-trust allegations by Anaheim that produced a Settlement Agreement with Edison in 1972.

The settlement was a landmark agreement in the industry – it was the key to Anaheim's ability to take advantage of power supply resources lower than Edison’s.

Energy Sources

From 1976 to 1983, Anaheim continued to buy most of its power supply from Edison, but the utility saved millions of dollars by making economy energy purchases from Nevada Power and other utilities in the Western United States. During this period, Anaheim voters strongly supported a series of revenue bond issues and other financing options to allow the utility to participate in this power diversification process. In the 1980s, Anaheim began receiving power from its share of San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station and its major participation share in the Intermountain Power Project (IPP).

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Anaheim received power from a wide selection of sources, including contractual arrangements for capacity and energy, a 40 MW share of power generated at Hoover Dam, and ownership interests in projects like San Juan Generating Station in New Mexico.

Underground Utility Conversion

In 1991, the City Council approved a Public Utilities Board recommendation to establish an underground utility conversion program. This marked the beginning of a 60-year program to underground 12 and 69 kV power, communications, and cable TV lines along major streets. This project will eliminate unsightly lines and overhead poles on public roads. Undergrounding is not only improving Anaheim's aesthetic appearance, but also enhancing property values and improving electrical system reliability.

In 1997, Anaheim purchased less than 2% of its energy from Edison, as opposed to 100% almost a quarter of a century ago.

Anaheim's Power Today

Today, Anaheim's power is produced at generating plants in or near our community and at locations across the western United States. Once the electricity enters our system, our transmission lines carry the power to distribution substations throughout the city, where it is transformed and distributed to homes and businesses.

Anaheim Public Utilities continues to take the initiative to build a better system – a system that supports the needs of the community by implementing creative and innovative ideas to provide enhanced services, improved reliability, and controlled costs. 


View a timeline of the history of electric utilities in Anaheim.