History of Electric Power in Hermiston

Image: Hermiston Energy Services LogoAs everyone knows, the electric utility industry started with the invention of the incandescent electric light bulb and central station electric power by Thomas Edison starting in 1879. The first commercial demonstration of the incandescent light in the Pacific Northwest took place in Portland, Oregon, on September 4, 1880, when the generators on the ship S.S. Columbia provided power for a light hung from the porch of the Clarendon Hotel. From then on, electric utilities -- public and private -- started to spring up in most every town in the Pacific Northwest and across the nation.

In July of 1907, Hermiston was incorporated after its early stages of development. The issue of the establishment of an electric utility began to emerge and by mid-1910, the Hermiston City Council awarded a franchise to Hermiston Light and Power Company owned by B.A. and G.A. Chislom. The fee was set at 15 cents per kilowatt-hour, and the City would receive two percent of the receipts and could purchase the system at actual value after ten years. Lights were to be provided from sunset to sunrise until July 1, 1912.

By January of 1911, most of the poles were up and by late March, the plant was in operation fed by a generator at a dam on the Umatilla River west of town. By 1912, the lights were on day and night. In mid-1940, when Hermiston’s population was 803, Hermiston Light and Power Company was sold to Pacific Power and Light, which had started in 1920 and had grown by purchasing many smaller electric utilities in the Pacific Northwest.

After an extensive process, PP&L’s facilities in Hermiston were acquired by the City of Hermiston and began operating as Hermiston Energy Services on October 1, 2001. Umatilla Electric Cooperative was formed in 1937 to serve the rural areas around Hermiston and as Hermiston grew, they eventually annexed territory within UEC’s service territory and through a franchise, UEC serves a portion of Hermiston.