On January 7, 1896, the first electric lights winked on in Rossland powered by a small temperamental steam-driven generator owned by the Rossland Water and Light Company. But the booming mines of Rossland also needed electric power which this inadequate generator could not provide.
On May 8, 1897 the West Kootenay Power and Light Company Ltd. was incorporated to build a hydro-electric plant at Lower Bonnington Falls on the Kootenay River to supply power to the mines of Rossland. The head office was established in Rossland. Sir Charles Ross, the chief promoter of the scheme, was named Chairman of the board.
The West Kootenay Power and Light Co. made history on July 15, 1898, when it successfully delivered electrical energy from Bonnington Falls to Rossland over the first long distance high-voltage transmission line in North America. It was 32 miles long and operated at 20,000 volts.
From 1906 to 1941 the WKP&L Co. also supplied power across the border to Northport, Washington.
One of the early customers of the WKP&L Co. was the struggling little smelter at Trail. At one stage the power company threatened to terminate service to the smelter because of an overdue account. The same smelter ultimately grew into the world-wide Cominco complex (now Teck) and in 1916 the WKP&L Co. became its wholly-owned subsidiary.
It was the availability of cheap power that enabled the Cominco operation at Trail to become the largest base metal producer in the world.
As it expanded the WKP&L. Co. absorbed the assets of the Rossland Water and Light Co., the Cascade Water, Power and Light Co. and the South Kootenay Power and Light Co. In 1930 the WKP&L Co. head office was moved to Trail.