Early century black and white photo of man lighting street light for National Grid history

Our history

Explore the history of National Grid and discover how energy has evolved over the years, shifting away from fossil fuels towards a cleaner, greener net zero future.

Our history timeline

Discover the history of National Grid and the energy sector from the Industrial Revolution to the modern day. Travel through time from the birth of the gas industry through to our ambition to help build a greener, cleaner energy system.


The gas industry is born. Britain was still at war with Napoleon when the Gas Light and Coke Company (GLCC) started operations under the seal of King George III. By the following year it was supplying coal gas to light the streets of Westminster.


In the early 1800s Manchester’s police force sought to find ways to light the streets they patrolled. At that time the process of producing and distributing gas, known as undertaking, was privately managed. In 1843, Manchester’s Corporation becomes the first ever municipal undertaking.


Lord Weir recommends the creation of a Central Electricity Board (CEB) to link the UK’s most efficient power stations with consumers via a ‘national gridiron'. It was set up the following year to standardise the nation’s electricity supply.


The UK’s National Grid is born. Commercial operation of the national 132kV electric power transmission grid begins in the UK. It is the first integrated national grid in the world.


The existing electricity network can’t meet consumers’ future demand. Work starts on a new 12-year project to create a 275kV supergrid – with new lines capable of carrying 400kV in the future.


Parliament passes the Electricity Act, creating the Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB). In popular terms, its aim is ‘to keep the lights on’ – something we still do today.


The transmission activities of the Central Electricity Generating Board, covering England and Wales, are transferred to the National Grid Company plc.


Dealings in National Grid shares start on 11 December 1995, following the company’s listing on the London Stock Exchange.


The new millennium sees National Grid begin expansion into the US, with the acquisition of the New England Electric System and Eastern Utilities Associates.


Further expansion in the US sees the Company merge with New York State utility Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation. The business becomes a subsidiary of National Grid USA.

2006 to 2007

National Grid continues its growth in the US, with the acquisitions of the Rhode Island gas distribution network and the KeySpan Corporation.


National Grid sells a majority stake in National Grid Gas Distribution in March, with operations beginning under the Cadent brand from May.


National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO) becomes a legally separate business within the National Grid Group.


National Grid Ventures acquires Geronimo Energy, paving the way to grow a large scale renewable energy business in the US.


Sees the UK reach an historic electricity generation milestone, with more electricity generated from zero carbon sources than fossil fuels.


National Grid agrees to buy Western Power Distribution (WPD) and, subject to the WPD Acquisition and certain regulatory approvals, to sell NECO, its Rhode Island gas and electricity business.


National Grid buys Western Power Distribution (WPD), and agrees to sell NECO, its Rhode Island gas and electricity business, subject to the WPD Acquisition and certain regulatory approvals.


National Grid completes the sale of NECO. National Grid agrees to sell 60% equity interest in the UK Gas Transmission and Metering businesses.


National Grid completes the sale of 60% equity interest in the UK Gas Transmission and Metering businesses.

History of electricity transmission in Britain

Find out more information about National Grid's history, including how our network came together to form the first grid system in the world.

Find out more