Since 1860 the Victoria Gas Company had been supplying coal gas for the city’s light and heat. Twenty-two years later, in 1882 Victorian Robert McMicking began experimenting with electric street lighting, and in December of the following year British Columbia’s first street lighting system is switched on in Victoria. It consisted of three arc lamps mounted on three tall poles and powered by electricity generated from a 25 hp steam engine. Four years later, in 1886 the Victoria Electric Illumination Co. incorporated and the next year Victoria became Canada’s first city to be illuminated by an incandescent electric light station.
In November of 1888, the City signed an agreement for a street railway and electric street lighting. Subsequently the National Electric Tramway and Lighting Co. (NET&L) was organized and incorporated in 1889. In 1890 NET&L’s electric streetcars began operation in Victoria. Electrical power for both lighting and the tramway was generated at the steam plant that still stands at 2110 Store street. It had been designed by John Teague in the Romanesque style.
Two years later, in 1892 a portion of the NET&L complex burns down and re-financing became necessary. In 1894 the Railway Amalgamation Syndicate was formed in London, England to refinance the NET&L as the Victoria Electric Railway and Lighting Co. In 1897 the provincial Consolidated Railway Act was passed, amalgamating Victoria’s and the Lower Mainland’s electric and gas companies into the British Columbia Electric Railway Co. (BCE).
Though not on Victoria’s harbour, it is worth noting that during this time the first hydroelectric generating plant on Canada’s West Coast was built at Goldstream to serve Victoria. The plant generated 1,200 hp. Also, in 1900 Victoria and Esquimalt were linked by electric railway. Fare is 15 cents one way, 25 cents return. In 1915, Jitneys, or independent taxis, appeared on Victoria’s streets, providing competition for the streetcars and creating a political issue that smouldered for more than a decade.