Turns out Nelson wasn’t the only place that granted free electricity for porch lights.
A recent Star story looked at the history of a city policy that bestowed a 50-watt bulb on each home along with free electricity.
It was considered so unusual that it earned mentions in the New York Times, Christian Science Monitor, and Saturday Evening Post.
Yet it wasn’t unique in West Kootenay.
The Nakusp Electric Light and Power Co., organized in 1920 to serve the village, made a similar offer.
The company provided one 25-watt porch light with free power for 10 years — provided customers paid $5 to install a separate circuit.
It was also suggested that “Porch lights should be lowered to allow their rays to extend to the streets thus giving greater brilliancy.”
The company generated hydroelectricity using Nakusp Creek, and had a small dam on Box Lake to control the flow into the creek. The power plant was right on the village’s waterfront.
The system, however, was plagued with problems.
As historian Milt Parent writes in Port of Nakusp: “As well as the lack of sufficient energy production and icing problems in the winter, the customers took advantage of the free power supplied to their porch light by plugging various appliances into the receptacle. This would eventually cause the abandonment of this arrangement.”
In 1936, George Horsley, the originator and owner of the plant, sold his company to the Columbia Power Co., which also had plants in Terrace, Williams Lake, Smithers, and Golden.
In turn, the BC government bought this company in 1945 after forming the BC Power Commission — the forerunner to BC Hydro.
The following year, a diesel plant was installed in Nakusp to keep up with demand and overcome problems with hydroelectric generation.
In 1951, a generating unit began operating at Whatshan to serve Needles, Edgewood, and Fauquier. By 1954, it also served Nakusp, following completion of a new transmission line. The village’s original power plant was finally retired after 34 years of fitful service.