The Hong Kong Electric Company – 1889 to the decommissioning of Ap Lei Chau Power station in 1989
HF: The following information comes from a variety of sources.
IDJ has kindly sent several of the images.
Following a meeting of the Executive Council to discuss land reclamation, Bendyshe Layton a British businessman and member of the Legislative Council, suggested to Sir Catchick Paul Chater that Hong Kong acquire an electricity generator.
Chater, who was to remain a director of the new Hong Kong Electric Company for 37 years, took charge of raising finance for the project. The company was incorporated in 1889. The total capital of $300,000 being divided into 30,000 shares, half of which were offered to the public.
As a result the first power station in Hong Kong was secretly built on, (or near according to the extract below), the site of an old graveyard in Star Street, Wanchai and opened in 1890. The plant was designed by electrical engineer William Wickham who subsequently remained its manager until 1910. Initial installed capacity was 100kw (another source says 50kw.)
The following has been extracted from “Twentieth Century Impressions of Hongkong…:
At 6:00 p.m. on December 1, 1890, 50 street lights along Queen’s Road Central, Battery Path and Upper Albert Road were switched on. The lights failed on the second night then again one week later. Thereafter there were no further faults for 26 years.
The power station was built in “colonial architectural style” and after decommissioning in 1922 was later demolished.
Street lighting was later extended west as far as Bonham Strand and Caine Road then later along Queens Road East and Wanchai Road to Mission Hospital Hill (site of the present Ruttonjee Hospital).
In the 1890s, as electricity became popular, the first private houses were connected to the company’s supply to power lights and fans. On the commercial front, a substation was built in 1898 to service the lifts of the new tall buildings mushrooming along the waterfront. By 1905 the company was supplying power for 15 lifts, thousands of lamps as well as for street lighting.
The power grid was extended underground to West Point then later to Victoris Peak and Shau Kei Wan. By 1916, Aberdeen and Ap Lei Chau were also connected. One by one large organisations like Dairy Farm, Taikoo Docks, the Peak Tram and the University of Hong Kong which had formerly generated their own supplies, switched to the company’s supply. In 1924 there were 1,369 street lamps lit by gas with only 469 powered by electricity.
HEC’s second power plant, North Point Power Station, started operation in 1919. There was actually a series of power plants built between then and 1966. The site is now home to City Garden residential apartments and Maxim Mall.
The original North Point Power Station (A) was a 3,000KW coal-fired generating station.
During the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong in December 1941, a number of staff at the North Point power plant held the Japanese at bay in an epic defence. Casualties from the battle included the plant’s manager Vincent Sorby, who died in a prison camp of wounds received during the attack.
North Point Power Station (B) was 30MW also coal-fired and opened in 1958 closing in 1989.
North Point Power Station (C) was 60MW and oil-fired opening in 1966 and decommissioned in 1989.
The oil-fired Ap Lei Chau Power Station which was the third power station of the Company, was commissioned in 1968 and produced 750MW. The plant was decommissioned in 1989 though between 1984 and that year its generators had been moved to Lamma Power Station. The remaining HEC building is now surrounded by the South Horizon housing estate.
And so to Lamma Power Station located at a 50-hectare site at Po Lo Tsui at Lamma Island, which was gazetted and granted by the Hong Kong Government to the Company in December 1978….
- Source: Wright, Arnold, : Twentieth Century Impressions of Hongkong, Shanghai, and Other Treaty Ports of China: Their History. People, Commerce, Industries, and Resources. London: Lloyd’s Greater Britain Publishing Company, Ltd., 1908.
- HEC – wikipedia
This article was first posted on 9th July 2015.
- A Mountain Of Light: The story of the Hongkong Electric Company, Austin Coates, Heinemann, 1977
- HEC’s website