History of BELCO
In 1904, through the vision of George Marshall Allen of New Jersey and several prominent Bermudians, the Bermuda Electric Light, Power & Traction Company (B.E.L.P.&T.) was incorporated, but did not become active until the first meeting of shareholders, which took place on September 29, 1906. The first Chairman of the Board to be elected was Dr. E.C. Wilkinson, who served until 1926.
Operating from a converted saw mill on East Broadway in Hamilton, the Company installed its first generating unit, a 50 kilowatt (kW) suction gas engine, in 1907. Demand for electricity was almost nonexistent. In fact, during that first year of business, B.E.L.P.&T.'s electricity was used only by the Company itself to light an advertising sign on the premises.
On April 21, 1908 an advertisement in The Royal Gazette announced B.E.L.P.&T. would be ready to proceed with the supply of electric current from May 1, 1908. The advertisement read, "which it (The Company) will run daily for the furnishing of lights to whosoever may desire them. As soon as the demand for fans or other daily power arises, it will be provided." The same year, the Company purchased its present site on Serpentine Road and moved its operations there. Later in the year, the Company began advertising its wiring services, fans, irons and tea kettles for sale. Demand began to rise dramatically. By 1909, second and third generating units were purchased and installed and electricity was provided on a 24-hour basis.
By 1920, a 300 kW peak load was being achieved, but gas engines were not proving the ideal way to generate electricity, so in 1921, the first oil engine was installed. Demand continued to increase rapidly. By 1938, 12,000,000 kW hours per annum were being generated and oil was transported from the Hamilton docks by pipeline.
Over the decades, scheduling tankers into Hamilton became increasingly difficult. Cruise ships and cargo ships were competing for dock space. In addition, the draft limitation of 26 feet for Hamilton Harbour severely limited the amount of fuel that could be brought in on a single vessel. As a result, BELCO required supply direct from the East End fuel facility.
In 1972, Esso built a nine-mile pipeline from their St. George's terminal to the power plant storage facilities in Pembroke. The pipeline remains in use today. In 1965, exchange control regulations banning the importation of air conditioners were lifted and demand increased dramatically. By 1968, generating capacity had increased to 51,750 kW with 13 diesel units and an all-time peak 15-minute load of 34,700 kWs. Kilowatt hours (kWh) sold were 166.5 million.
Demand for electricity continued to increase in the 1970s, although world awareness of oil as a finite resource and the growing expectations of producing countries led to several oil crises, notably in 1974 when fuel prices increased by 150%. Major emphasis in operations and planning was placed on fuel conservation.
Through the 1980s and into the early 2000s, the Company¬†grew to keep pace with Bermuda's growing demand for electricity. Significant building and expansion took place in 1999, including development of the East Power Station, the Cemetery Road Transport Facility and the new Administration Building. In 2002, BELCO upgraded its Training Centre and in 2003, brought the state-of-the-art C. Eugene Cox Operations Centre online. The building phase has been accompanied by increased emphasis on efficiency in all of the Company's operations.