With the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1885, the port city of Vancouver, British Columbia, was linked to the farming country of the Canadian prairies and the eastern industrial and population centers. Like the major transcontinental railroads in the United States, the completion of the Canadian Pacific was an act of linking tracks that had been building toward each other from the east and west. The final spike was driven at remote Craigellatchie, a short distance west of the Columbia River city of Revelstoke.
Within a few years Vancouver was booming. On August 8, 1887, the Vancouver Electric Illumination Society switched on its steam-powered generating plant at the corner of Abbott and Hastings in downtown Vancouver. Three hundred street lamps winked on, and 53 homes had electricity for lights. In 1961 the province took over B.C. Electric and its Peace River subsidiary. In 1962 the company was merged with the B.C. Power Commission, which the province formed in 1945. The merged entity was renamed the British Columbia Hydro & Power Authority and came to be known as BC Hydro. Over time the company grew to become the largest electricity generation and transmission utility in the province and played an important role in the creation of the Columbia River Treaty and the development of the intertie of high-voltage transmission lines between the Northwest and Southwest regions of the United States.
B.C. Hydro is a crown corporation, officially a division of the government of the province. The utility gets nearly 90 percent of its electricity from hydroelectric dams — it owns and operates 32 in the province — and most of these are in two river basins, that of the Peace River in the northern part of the province and the Columbia River Basin. B.C. Hydro’s dams in the Columbia Basin include Mica, Revelstoke and Keenleyside on the mainstem river, Duncan on the Duncan river, which flows into the north end of Kootenay Lake, and several smaller dams on tributaries, including Spillmacheen on the river of the same name near Golden, Aberfeldie on the Kootenay River near Cranbrook, and Sevenmile on the Pend Oreille River east of Trail.
BC Hydro serves 1.6 million customers, or about 94 percent of the population of the province, and also operates 44,640 miles (72,000 kilometers) of transmission and distribution lines.