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.


1812 

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.


1843

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.


1925

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.


1935

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.


1950 

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.


1957 

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.


1990

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


1995

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


2000

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


2002 

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.


2017

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


2019 

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


2019 

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


2019 

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


2021 

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.


2021 

National Grid announces its intention to commence a process for the sale of a majority equity interest in the UK Gas Transmission Business.

Capturing stories in the gas industry

Capturing Stories is National Grid’s commitment to seek out and record the lived experience of the gas industry.

The recordings are of stories locked away in the memories of those who worked on former gas manufacturing sites, gas industry employees and of people who remember their local gasworks being operational.
 

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A beach at sunset with the sea coming in and electricity pylons dotted into the distance

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.

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An image of National Grid CEO John Pettigrew and another man in safety gear in front of a gas holder

History of gas transmission in Britain

Find out more information about Britain's 200 years in the gas industry, including details of National Grid's own contributions to the energy market.

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