Ottawa River Power Generation

The Birthplace of Electric Street Lighting in North America

Murray L. Moore Hydro Museum

The Pembroke Hydro Museum officially opened in October 1984 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first street light that was installed in Pembroke. The Museum was later dedicated in honor of Murray L. Moore on the occasion of his retirement on October 31, 2004.

Murray Moore served Pembroke's hydro utility and its electricity consumers diligently for 45 years, retiring as President and Chief Executive Officer.

The museum is housed in the original diesel room of the Pembroke Electric Light Co. Ltd., complete with original light fixtures. The Museum is located in the heart of Pembroke, at the corner of Pembroke Street West and Frank Nighbor Street.

The museum is open Monday to Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Admission is free. For group tours, please call: 613-732-3687, extension 31.

Murray L. Moore's book "From the Beginning: A Hydro Story"

Murray L. Moore has compiled a personal history of the development of electric power in the Upper Ottawa Valley.  It is a collection of memories that pays tribute to those individuals who served as part of the hydro development in the Pembroke area. The history is rich as the first plant in Canada to generate electric power for commercial purposes and street lighting was based in Pembroke. Discover pages full of stories and photographs from the early days to the present time. Books are available for purchase at 283 Pembroke St. W. for $25.00 (cash only).

The book is also for sale at: the Pembroke Public Library and the Champlain Trail Museum.  It can also be borrowed from the Pembroke Public Library, the Killaloe Public Library, the Mississippi Mills Public Library, and the library of Algonquin College in the Ottawa Valley.

The First Manager of the Electric Light Plant

The first manager of the electric light plant was Henry Cone, brother of J.A. Cone, the manager in 1930. J.A. Cone was employed by W.B. McAllister when the first plant was installed, and with two other men, put up the line. After completing this work he left, but he returned three years later, and has been on the job ever since a period of forty-three years, during which time he has never taken a holiday, nor at any time, been away from the plant, or some portion of it for as long as a week.

Mr. Cone well recalled the old red mill in which the first plant was located, with the furniture shop conducted by William and James Bland upstairs. Power was generated from water in the Muskrat River at the dam. The water was used during the day time to operate Mr. McAllister's grist mill on the west bank of the river, and at night, it served to provide light for the town.

The First Electric Light Plant

The first plant consisted of two Weston 70 volt direct current dynamos and the incandescent lights ran in series of six, each taking 100 volts. If one light burned out, all six went out. This was soon followed by larger machines, both for street lighting and residential lighting. Arc lights were located on Pembroke Street at Cecelia, William, McKay, Victoria, Church, Moffat and Hincks Streets. Others were added later and when, in 1889, the Pembroke Electric Light Company came into being, there were additional lights at the intersections of Pembroke and Munro Streets, Christie and Mary Streets, Renfrew and Berlin Streets, in front of the Baptist Church, and in front of the Convent of Mary Immaculate. In order that the lights should illuminate as much of the adjacent territory as possible, they were hung on brackets at the top of 45 foot poles. Since the carbon burned out quickly, workmen had to climb the poles to trim them, sometimes a difficult and hazardous task.

This primitive plant on the bank of the Muskrat River was operated by Mr. McAllister until 1889, when owing to low water in the Muskrat River and increasing demands on the plant, a steam auxiliary plant was installed alongside the original building.

Pembroke Electric Light Company is Formed

It was at this time that a company was formed, and purchased the business from Mr. McAllister. The original shareholders in the Pembroke Electric Light Company were: Hon. Peter White, W.B. McAllister, A.T. White, Archibald Foster, James A. Thibodeau, Arunah Dunlop, George Schmidt and Thomas H. Moffat. Hon. Peter White was the first president and Jas. A. Thibodeau was manager for a great number of years.

Pembroke Electric Light Company Expands

The plant was operated until 1893, when the next step in expansion was made, with the erection of the steam plant on Nelson Street, near the Muskrat River, behind the present-day City Hall. This station was equipped with three boilers, two Wheelock engines, simple and compound, and two Edison incandescent 110/220 volt, three wire direct current machines and one Westinghouse 1,000 volt single phase alternator, the first alternating current generator in Pembroke. Also the two old arc light machines were moved from the other station.

With the increased capacity, the Company set about to secure customers, and as an inducement, offered to wire houses free of charge. The result was that electric lights were installed in a great many homes.

With the development in the early days of the present century of the alternating and higher voltage systems, a new era was introduced, making possible the industrial development which has taken place in Pembroke since about 1910.

Diesel Generation

From the Commemorative Book on the Opening of the New Diesel Plant in 1930, we take the following:

"In the Pembroke substation, there is installed a 1250 h.p. diesel engine, directly connected to a 60 cycle generator; this is to take care of a short daily peak during the late autumn and early winter months. This type of prime mover, in addition to being a very economical standby unit, which may be operated with an overexcited field to improve the power factor on peak load, thus reducing transmission line loss and increasing the capacity of the generators in the company's hydro electric plant at Waltham, Quebec, some fourteen and one half miles from Pembroke".

"The engine was placed in operation, and was the largest stationary diesel engine in operation in Canada in 1930, when it was installed. It was installed in an addition to the auxiliary steam plant, located in the company's Pembroke substation".

"In the reconstruction of the powerhouse building to accommodate this unit, special attention was given to the external appearance of the building. The plant facing the main street of the City, has a large front lawn on a part of which the principal offices of the company have since located".

"Fuel oil storage, totaling 20,000 gallons, is provided, and owing to the low temperatures prevailing in this part of Canada during the winter months, a fuel oil of 3436 degrees Beaume is being used, but it is possible that lower grade fuel oil will be used later, as the engine is specially designed to consume successfully, the lower and cheaper grades of oil."

"0.73 Cents Per KWH" With a generator efficiency of 921/2 percent, and when operating at or near full load, the engine will produce slightly in excess of 13 KWH per Imperial gallon of fuel oil, and with fuel oil costing 91/2 cents per gallon, the fuel cost per KWH will run approximately .73 cents.

"1250 h.p. Diesel Engine" The diesel engine is of the two stroke cycle type, and while built in St. Louis, Mo., it is of the well known design of the Sulzer Bros. of Winterthur, Switzerland, who are in partnership affiliation with the St. Louis Company.

Double Port Scavenging
A particular feature of the engine is the double port method of scavenging. On the lower end of the piston travel, two rows of scavenging ports are uncovered the upper row uncovered before the exhaust, being valve controlled, so that the instant the exhaust gasses drop in pressure, as a result of their passing out through the exhaust ports, air under about two pounds pressure enters the cylinder from the scavenging header and is directed upward at a steep angle. On further travel of the piston, air enters the cylinder through the lower set of scavenging ports, and this air stream is directed upward at a less steep angle. Until the piston covers the exhaust ports on its upward stroke, a volume of air considerably in excess of the piston displacement has been blown through and has thoroughly purged the cylinder of exhaust gasses. After the exhaust ports are closed, air continuing to enter the cylinder through the upper scavenging ports, serves to supercharge the cylinder with about two pounds pressure. The advantages claimed for double port scavenging lie in the fact that the cylinder is more thoroughly purged of burnt gasses, a higher M.E.P. is obtained, and thus a greater horsepower per unit of displacement.

Conventional Box Frame

The engine is of the conventional box frame construction, with working cylinders, scavenging pump, and blast compressor, all mounted in line, and each provided with a separate crank. The cylinder head is a simple round casting with but one opening in the centre, in which is mounted the water cooled fuel valve cage. The fuel valve cage also contains the air starting valve on the cylinders arranged for starting. A safety relief valve is built into each fuel valve cage. The cam shaft, which operates at the engine speed of 200 r.p.m. is driven through helical gears, from the main crank shaft. The governor is completely enclosed and is fitted with a motor, operated from the switchboard for synchronizing with the hydro plant. The governing of the engine proper is accomplished by variable closing of the suction valves of the fuel pump to operate at fixed stroke.

Forced Lubrication

The engine operates under a full forced feed lubrication, all lubricating oil piping being of brass, with sweated joints where necessary. Drips from the engine pass into a 600 gallon rest tank beneath the floor, through a tubular cooler, a duplex strainer, and then to a positive pressure rotary pump which supplies all important parts of the engine. A hand operated pump is also provided, to prime the engine after a long shutdown. Water for jacket and piston cooling is taken from the City supply, and run to waste. If the engine were required to operate for longer periods, a cooling tower would have been installed. A calibrated fuel oil meter is used for determination of fuel oil consumption over definite periods. All auxiliaries are located in the basement, thus making for a clean and neat appearing engine room. A small gasoline engine driven Rix compressor is available for refilling the starting tanks in case the charge is lost for any reason. The engine is of the full diesel, air injection type, having six cylinders, 17 inches in diameter by 27 inch stroke. It is directly connected to a Canadian Westinghouse 3 phase, 60 cycle alternator, with direct coupled exciter, and makes an admirable standby because at any time, it can be placed in operation and under load in a few minutes; is economical in operation, and does not involve any standby losses.

Concrete Mat Base

The location on which this engine was erected has a quick sand subsoil, so it was decided to erect both the engine and building on a heavy reinforced concrete mat. This construction has worked out well with a minimum of vibration in both engine and building. All pumps, centrifuge, air pressure, stores, lockers, and workshop are in the roomy and well lighted basement, which has a clear passage all around the engine foundation with head room of nine feet. The engine is served by a special steel crane extending the full length of the engine room, the crane runway being almost entirely concealed in the domed ceiling. The crane was specially designed by the Victoria Foundry Company, Ottawa. The lighting fixtures were supplied by Powerlite Devices Ltd. The architects for the building were Noffke, Sylvestre & Moring of Ottawa, Ontario. The electrical work was by Marchand Electrical Company of Ottawa, Ontario. All engine ring and supervision of installation was taken care of by Colonel George H. Johnson, C.B.E. of Arnprior, Ontario.

In Keeping With Town

"The new buildings", said Hon. Mr. Dunlop, "are probably a little more elaborate than present requirements call for, but because of the nature of the service for which they were constructed, it was necessary that they be substantial and fireproof, as the Electric Light Company was not a corporation without a soul, but felt itself to be part and parcel of the town and its activities, they had decided that the new buildings should be fully in keeping with Pembroke and its growing importance". A town and its general spirit are judged largely by the character of its public buildings, and for this reason, they had perhaps spent a little more than might have seemed necessary. "The company's aim", said Mr. Dunlop, "had always been to give the citizens a good service. A service intermittent and not constant, as to voltage and speed was dear at any price, and every effort was being made to ensure continued service".

Completion of an addition to the Company's generating facilities in 1951, raised the output of the Black River Generating Station by 5800 KW to its present rating of 9.5 MKW. Naturally, this increase in generating capacity was necessary due to the ever increasing demands for electric power in the areas served by the Pembroke Electric Light Company Limited.

In order to distribute this additional energy, it was necessary to provide greater substation capacity to meet the needs of the energetic building program developed in all areas of the Town, particularly as most of these new homes were all equipped for better electrical living, including some homes and schools designed for electric heating.

A new substation was therefore, designed and constructed to provide the necessary capacity for the anticipated building boom in the East End (Fraser St. Station). The station originally designed for three circuits, and the maximum output of 3750 KVA was believed adequate to meet the growing needs for at least five years. This did not prove to be the case, and two additional circuits were added, one in 1954 and another in 1955. This new station naturally called for the expansion of new distribution feeders and services throughout the entire East End, particularly in the neighborhood of the Fraser and Robinson Farms.

Increasing demands in the East End made in necessary to replace the 3750 KVA transformer with a 5000 KVA transformer with an ultimate capacity of 6750 KVA. This work was also carried out in 1957-58. Growing demands of industry and the development of subdivisions in Stafford Township, and the building of further homes in the West End of the Town, made it imperative that further capacity be installed to meet the growing demand in these areas, and so provide a reasonably dependable service.

In 1957 another substation was designed and constructed at the intersection of Fischer Street and Third Avenue. This station was designed for 5000 KVA output and a maximum of four feeders, only two of which were originally installed. This new substation was completed in 1958. New feeders, distribution circuits were expanded where the service was desired.

By 1960, plans were made at the same time to increase the number of water storage reservoirs from 9 to 16 on the Black River.

Tie with H.E.P.C.

During the fall of 1952, subnormal rainfall affected water sheds all over the Province, resulting in a request for assistance to the H.E.P.C. who supplied the Company during this emergency with power. This assistance was greatly appreciated, and later resulted in mutual exchange of power, and this friendly relationship between Canada's largest publicly owned utility and Pembroke's private utility has been maintained to this day.

New Substation and Distribution Circuits

The unprecedented demand for electric power resulted in the expansion of electrical facilities throughout the town and district served by the Pembroke Electric Light Company Ltd., and to meet this demand prior to the expansion of the hydraulic facilities two 1000 h.p. diesel engine units were installed in No. 1 substation, to provide auxiliary power.

In 1960, it became apparent that existing equipment in No. 1 substation in the downtown Pembroke area had reached the end of its useful life, and was replaced with the latest modern air blast switchgear, capable of handling up to 10,000 KVA thus providing ample capacity for future downtown development.

With the installation of this new equipment, feeders supplying various parts of the Centre Ward were rerouted down Henry Street, and along Lake Street, to the various points of distribution thus, enabling the large number of feeders spanning Pembroke Street, to be removed greatly improving the appearance of this section of the Main Street. In 1961, the Traffic and Light Committee of Council began what was to be a five year study of whether or not the town should buy the "in town" assets of the Pembroke Electric Light Company, and form their own hydro system. In 1962, Council set up a separate negotiation committee of three to review the purchase of assets, and these people served until 1967, when the first Commission was appointed. On this committee were the following three councillors: Donald A. Simpson Chairman, Robert Dey and Claire O'Neil.

The Committee, after reviewing the pros and cons, felt there was but one way to go. With 350 public utilities and only 3 private utilities in Ontario, a distinct advantage was eminent. It was felt that the response to the public's current and future needs could be better served with a City owned utility. With the purchase of the utility, it could be easily seen that the City's assets would greatly increase 1967-1977. Throughout the decade, before purchasing, City Council refused retail increases to the Pembroke Electric Light Company.

Meanwhile, the Pembroke Electric Light Company had just completed their 4th substation adjacent to the C.N.R. station on MacKay Street.

Pembroke Hydro

In the fall of 1966, a referendum was held on the question of forming our own hydro. The result of the question was in the affirmative.

On March 1, 1967, in Canada's Centennial Year, the Pembroke Hydro Electric Commission was born. The Town of Pembroke purchased the distribution system and all 'in town' assets. A ribbon cutting ceremony was held at the office at 283 Pembroke St. West. George Cathercole, Chairman of the Hydro Electric Commission of the Province of Ontario, cut the ribbon, utilizing a lineman's knife.

With the Town of Pembroke purchasing the 'in town' assets of the Pembroke Electric Light Company, the ownership of the utility was transferred from a group of investors to the Municipality of Pembroke. With this transfer of ownership, it meant that the utility would have to be more responsive to the public needs, in that the Commission members would be elected every second year to serve; therefore, reflecting the public's needs in the utility's annual objectives.

The first General Manager of the Pembroke Hydro Electric Commission was J.L. (Larry) Tron (1967-1970). Tron was the previous Manager of the Pembroke Electric Light Company, prior to purchase. Larry was a great deal more than a hydro manager. He served on the school board for years, was past President of the Ontario Electrical Safety Association, past President of the Pembroke Rotary Club, as well as being a very active church member.

On Mr. Tron's retirement in 1970, the Commission elected to operate under a split management model. Wilburn Schultze became the Office Manager and Murray L. Moore became Operations Manager (1970-1978).

The first Commission was appointed in 1967. Pharmacist Eric Work was appointed Chairman. Industrialist Art McNair and Mayor William Kutschke completed the Commission.

In the first ten years of operation of the utility, the utility made tremendous strides.

Total Number of Customers in 1967


Total Number of Customers in 1999


Total Net Fixed Assets in 1967

$2 million

Total Net Fixed Assets in 1999

$14 million

On March 1, 1967, Pembroke Hydro began its operation with 20 employees. In 2008, there were 20 employees.

In 1965, with the installation of the fourth substation on Mackay Street, adjacent to the C.N.R. station, the programme was commenced to convert our distribution system from a 'delta' system to a 'wye' system. This reduced losses and increased capabilities of the system. Progress on this work, along with the installation of new 4160 volt stations was over several years; specifically as follows:

  • East of the Muskrat River - Completed in 1968, included increased capacity of Substation No. 2 to 6000 KVA

  • Centre Ward - Completed in 1969

  • West Ward - Completed in 1970, included increased capacity to 5000 KVA

  • Construction of the Campbell Drive Station - 3750 KVA (1970)

In 1976, all of our stations were, once again, taxed to the limit in both ends of the City. After a two-year study of the voltage levels, two stations were constructed; one on Quarry Road and one adjacent to the structure at Substation No. 3 on Third Avenue.

The early days of Pembroke Hydro can only be described as very 'trying,' with problems such as a 100 percent debenture for assets, high inflationary period and a backlog of electrical maintenance. It was through this era that marketing of electric heat in Ontario was prevalent which, subsequently, affected our cash.

In 1976, a service center was constructed for stock and vehicles. The construction of this facility was long overdue and proved itself with the increase in efficiency.

We are very proud of our facilities, our modern fleet and equipment. This was not achieved in one year, but bit by bit, with the help of very dedicated employees. It is the sincere hope of our Board of Directors and employees that the accomplishments of 'our hydro' will be as beneficial to our community in the next 50 years as in the past.

One Hundred and Five Years of Electrical Service

Pembroke takes pride in being the first town in Canada in which electric power was generated for commercial purposes and on Wednesday, Oct. 8, 1884, the first electric lights were turned on in Pembroke.

In Toronto, electric lighting was then in an experimental stage, a street light having been placed at a downtown corner of Yonge St. during the latter part of 1884. Ottawa and Hull adopted the Incandescent light in 1887, and Toronto, two years later in 1889.

Electric power was given to Pembroke through the enterprise of the late W.B. McAllister, who at that time, occupied an important place in the business and industrial life of the town. The station where the power was generated by water from the Muskrat River, was a small building that stood on Pembroke Street, just east of the Muskrat River, opposite to what is now City Hall. Original records are scarce. Notwithstanding its significance, The Pembroke Observer in its issue of Oct. 19, 1884 , announced the advent of electric light in Pembroke, marking the beginning of a new era, with the following brief paragraph:

"Electric lamps have been put into nine or ten of the stores in town, and Wednesday evening, they were illuminated by the electric light. The improvement is very marked. A few of the brilliant lights also illuminate our streets now, and there is considerable discussion going on as to where the street lamps should be located. Compared with buildings illuminated with electric light, those illuminated with coal oil are dark indeed. This new light is truly wonderful."

Further information is given in the following brief of the same newspaper, dated Oct. 17, 1884:

"On Saturday last, the Town Council entered into an agreement with Mr. W.B. McAllister for the lighting of our streets with the electric light. There are to be five electric lamps on the streets two on the east side of the bridge and three on the west. These lamps are to be kept burning from dusk until one o'clock a.m. every night of the year. The new town hall, when completed, is also to be illuminated by the electric light. The Council have agreed to pay Mr. McAllister for all six hundred dollars per annum. The east end lamps have been placed in position, and nightly shed forth their brilliant rays. One lamp also burns nightly in the west end, but the exact location of the lamps in this end has not been decided on, and the others have therefore, not yet been put up.

"What must heaven be, when this is so bright?" was the suppressed exclamation of a pious old lady on Sunday evening in one of the churches illuminated by the electric light.

"Mr. S.E. Mitchell's establishment may be added to the list of stores, etc., which have adopted the electric light. The new lamps were put in yesterday, Mr. Mitchell choosing four small ones rather than one large one."

"The office wherein the machinery is situated just east of the bridge, has been visited by many interested spectators."

"A young lady wants to know if the street lamps have been put up for the purpose of having a crowd of young men stand in their neighborhood and gaze at the passersby. She says it is perfectly lovely to take a walk with her beau in the brilliant light, but the lamp post starers mar the pleasure considerably. She will probably soon become accustomed to this state of affairs."

"No charge has been made for the light supplied to the stores and the town so far, the lamps being on trial, as it were. Everything works brilliantly and satisfactorily and in the natural order of things, the charges will likely soon begin."

"The lamp in the waiting room of the Copeland House does much towards illuminating the street in the neighborhood."

"The light has rapidly gained in favour here. The system is that of the United States Electric Light Company, represented by Ahearn & Soper of Ottawa, and comprises both arc and incandescent lighting. Mr. McAllister will no doubt find the investment a profitable one, and his enterprise deserves this. Pembroke is the first town in Canada to adopt the electric light throughout."

"The fact that the stores of Pembroke are illuminated by the electric light has done much to spread its name abroad, and has elicited much admiration of the enterprise of the town. And no wonder. There are few towns as enterprising as Pembroke, and few possessing the electric light."

In the same issue, it is recorded that two of the local churches had installed electric lights. The article reads in part as follows:

"On Sunday evening last, the English and Methodist churches in town were illuminated for the first time by the electric light, at the seven o'clock services. The Presbyterian church was closed for the evening, and the Rev. W.D. Ballantyne went over and preached in the Methodist church. Both churches were crowded to the doors, and certainly, both looked very fine under the indescribably brilliant rays of the new light. In the Methodist church, there are two lamps the basement also being illuminated by the electric light. These lamps lit up the church beautifully and brought out the fine interior in a brilliant manner. Those of a thoughtful turn of mind could not help falling into a soliloquy on the wonderful progress of the town and age. Here was this magnificent church, eloquent in all its appointments with a fine pipe organ and choir, filled with a fashionable and richly dressed audience, and fairly ablaze with the electric light, situated in a "metropolitan" town, the site of which was a wilderness comparatively a few years ago."

The first use of the new illumination in the Church of England was apparently not so successful as in the Methodist church, for it is recorded that as the rector was drawing to the close of a scholarly and earnest sermon, suddenly the light was extinguished, leaving the church in darkness. It seems that the two carbons used in the lamp had suddenly fallen together, thus extinguishing it.

All was not plain sailing at the first, and one of the machines was found to be unsatisfactory, with the result that it was exchanged. The Observer of Oct. 24, 1884, tells about it in the following paragraph:

"The arc electric light continues to give entire satisfaction on the streets and in the stores. The incandescent light (small lamps) however, is found to be too weak, and Mr. W.B. McAllister has decided to send the machine back and procure another arc machine in its stead. An improved incandescent machine will probably be put in later on."

The town had not long been served by the new mode of lighting before there came demand for more street lights. It had been the intention of the Town Council to place two lights in east and centre wards, and one in the west ward. Before the location of the latter light had been decided, Mr. McAllister placed it on Pembroke St. The authorities subsequently had it moved to the intersection of Renfrew and Berlin (now Isabella) Streets, and residents of Pembroke Street, having had the light for a short time, were loath to relinquish it. The difficulty was solved by making a new contract with Mr. McAllister, and giving the west ward two lights, the new one being placed at the corner in front of the residence of Thomas Mackie, where the Laurentian Public School now stands.

A short time later, the discovery was made that the new lamps did not penetrate a fog as readily or successfully as did the old coal oil lamps, but the Observer philosophically points out that this will not make much difference, since Pembroke is not London, England.

In a short time, the use of electricity for lighting purposes was fairly general in the town, and on November 28, 1884, The Observer newspaper stated that:

"The contractors, Ahearn & Soper, of Ottawa, have just completed their contract with Mr. W.B. McAllister for the supply of electric light apparatus, and Saturday night, our town was the only one on the whole line of the C.P.R. from the Atlantic to the Pacific that is wholly lighted with electricity. Mr. McAllister's enterprise met with a prompt response from the merchants and the corporation, the latter one adopting lights for the town hall and the streets. All the principal stores, the skating rink and the Copeland House are lighted, and on Sundays, the churches. The light is very brilliant, but withal soft and steady. Commercial travellers pronounced Pembroke the best lighted town in Canada."

Black River Generation

In the old days of direct current, it was economically impossible to transmit electric energy any considerable distance. It was seen in 1904 and 1905 that the capacity of the existing plant would soon be exhausted, and with the discovery of the three phase higher voltage systems, the development at Black River was undertaken. In 1906 with the two Jenks units producing three phase alternating current, the Hon. E.A. Dunlop, president of the Pembroke Electric Light Company, officially opened the plant, commencing a whole new era. This station was to be the sole prime source of power until 1952.

In 1917, the necessity of having the transforming and distribution equipment housed in a fireproof building became apparent, and the substation on Pembroke Street West was built. In this building was installed the most modern and completely up to date equipment, to which has been added from time to time, still more modern machinery, culminating in the installation of the Diesel auxiliary, by means of which uninterrupted service was assured, regardless of what happened at the Black River plant.

In 1937, a new concrete dam was built across the Black River at Waltham, Quebec; thereby, raising the head of water on the turbines, and assuring an ample supply of water in the head pond under all conditions.

In 1940, at the expressed request of the Department of National Defence, a further addition of 2250 horsepower was made at the Black River plant, and power from this unit kept this Military centre going all during the second great war, when no other source of electrical power was available in the area.

In 1944, the two old Jenks units which had been in service since 1906, were retired and replaced with a 2500 horsepower unit. Following the end of World War II, the slump which usually follows expanded war production, did not develop, and in 1949, increasing demands for electrical energy made it imperative that the Company increase the development at the Black River plant. Planning and engineering followed, and provision was made to install two units of 3000 horsepower each the installation being completed in 1952.

The current generated at Black River was stepped up to 25,000 volts for transmission to Pembroke, the transmission line being fourteen and one half miles long, and carried on steel structures, spaced approximately at 400 feet. The transmission line was in two 3 wire circuits, which could be operated either in parallel or separately, in case of trouble on either one or the other circuit.

This current was stepped down at the Pembroke substation by three 1500 KVA, 25,000 volt single phase, air-cooled transformers, and distributed throughout the town by means of three 3 phase 2300/110 volt lighting circuits and three 3 phase 2300 power circuits. The voltages were later increased to 44,000 volt transmission and distribution of 2.4/4.16 KV and 7.2/12.4 KV.

Both the Black River station and the Pembroke substation were thoroughly fireproof and modern in every respect when built, and contained the most completely up to date equipment. The Pembroke substation contained a 375 KVA 3 phase, 2500 volt generator belt connected to a 500 h.p. Corliss type engine, installed as standby equipment. To this in 1930, was added a 1250 h.p. Diesel engine, direct-connected to a 1070 KVA generator. This engine still may be seen, and is in the hydro museum.

Evidence of the growth of the company and of the confidence which has been placed in it as a result of the efforts of the management, to provide continuity of service at reasonable rates, was found in the following statement of gross earnings, taken at five year periods for the financial year ending January 31, 1930:

 Gross Earnings

One of the most interesting comparisons that can be made between present day conditions and the past, is in the matter of rates.

When the service was first inaugurated, the rate was set at $7 per year for each incandescent light; and these were the old 16 candlepower carbon lights (tungsten, mercury vapor, fluorescent, or sodium light sources were unknown in those days). This rate was retained until meters were put in about 1900, when it was changed to 121/2 cents per kilowatt hour. The present bottom residential rate is 2.4 cents per KWH.

Ottawa River Power Corporation

Ottawa River Power Corporation has its roots in the former four utilities of Almonte Hydro, Beachburg Hydro, Killaloe Hydro and Pembroke Hydro.

Almonte Hydro history goes back to 1886 with a stock company formed to provide electric lighting in the village. The 20 street lights came on in 1889. In 1890 Dr. A.A. Metcalfe and his brothers built the first generating station operating as the Almonte Electric Light Company which sold power. In 1901, the Metcalfe plant was bought by the town which led to the formation of the Almonte Electric Light Commission in 1908. Generation increased over the years; but, in 1945, a connection was made to Ontario Hydro to assure an adequate supply. The existing power house, now owned by Mississippi River Power Generation was upgraded in 1991 to 2500 kW

Beachburg Hydro history dates back to 1935 when Beachburg was part of the Township of Westmeath. In 1959, Beachburg formed its own municipal government and Beachburg Hydro was controlled by a separate commission, made up of council. On January 1, 2000, Beachburg Hydro amalgamated with Pembroke Hydro to become Ottawa River Power Corporation.

Electrical power came to Killaloe in 1947 as part of the rural electrification program of Ontario Hydro. The public utility was created in 1952 to take over the operation of the distribution of electricity within the town. A Commission, consisting of two elected commissioners and the mayor, ran the utility. A major rebuild/upgrading of the system was completed in 1975.

Pembroke’s electric history dates back to October 1884 when it was reported in the local paper the first electric light was being turned on. Pembroke Electric Light Company came into existence in 1889 with a focus of providing light to Pembroke. Early generation was on the Muskrat River as part of the plant. Later generation came from a station built on the Black River. Pembroke Electric Light provided power from the Five Mile Crossing through to Camp Petawawa.

In 1967, Pembroke Hydro was formed when the municipality purchased the distribution assets from Pembroke Electric Light Company.

In 1997, the Government of Ontario engaged the MacDonald Committee to review the electrical system in Ontario. In various countries throughout the world, the industry was being revised; separating the components into competitive companies, where possible.

The Macdonald Committee requested input from utilities. Pembroke Hydro, in co-operation with all the other utilities in Renfrew County, completed a study which found that if amalgamation took place to create one utility of approximately 20,000 customers, excellent efficiency and superior service could be provided. In 2001, Pembroke Hydro and Beachburg Hydro amalgamated together to form the Ottawa River Power Corporation. Killaloe Hydro and Mississippi Mills Hydro (formerly Almonte Hydro) joined ORPC on the opening of the Market.

With the deregulation of the Ontario power market in 2001, competitive products had to be separated from the wires company (ORPC) into a competitive company. As a result, products such as water heaters, sentinel lights, street and traffic light maintenance were separated from ORPC.

The Ottawa River Power Corporation formed in November 2000 with Pembroke Hydro, Beachburg Hydro, Killaloe Hydro and Mississippi Mills Hydro amalgamating together to form the Ottawa River Power Corporation.

The Board of Directors consists of seven directors, four of which are appointed by the City of Pembroke and one from each of the other municipalities.

ORPC is a local distribution company and has the responsibilities of supplying the electrical distribution network from the Hydro One grid to its municipal customers.

We presently have a staff of 26 people, five of which are located in the Mississippi Mills office and the remaining are employed in the Pembroke office, servicing Beachburg and Killaloe as well.

We have an affiliate, Ottawa River Energy Solutions Inc., which is completely operated by a separate, independent Board of Directors. They, in turn, provide competitive services in the range of rental products, fibre optics as well as contracting other services.

ORPC Original Board of Directors 
  • George Abdallah, Chair
  • Les Scott, Director
  • Jay McLaren, Director
  • Ron Lowe, Director