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Electric Worlds / Mondes électriques

Creations, Circulations, Tensions, Transitions (19th–21st C.)


Edited By Alain Beltran, Léonard Laborie, Pierre Lanthier and Stéphanie Le Gallic

What interpretation(s) do today’s historians make of electrification? Electrification is a process which began almost a hundred and fifty years ago but which more than one billion men and women still do not have access to. This book displays the social diversity of the electric worlds and of the approaches to their history. It updates the historical knowledge and shows the renewal of the historiography in both its themes and its approaches. Four questions about the passage to the electrical age are raised: which innovations or combination of innovations made this passage a reality? According to which networks and appropriation? Evolving thanks to which tensions and alliances? And resulting in which transition and accumulation?

Quel(s) regard(s) les historiens d’aujourd’hui portent-ils sur l’électrification, processus engagé il y a près de cent cinquante ans mais auquel plus d’un milliard d’hommes et de femmes restent encore étrangers ? Le présent volume rend compte de la diversité des mondes sociaux électriques et des manières d’enquêter sur leur histoire. Il actualise les connaissances et témoigne du renouvellement de l’historiographie, dans ses objets et ses approches. Quatre points d’interrogation sur le basculement des sociétés dans l’âge électrique jalonnent le volume : moyennant quelles créations ou combinaisons créatrices ? En vertu de quelles circulations et appropriations ? Selon quelles tensions et alliances ? Et produisant quelles transitions et accumulations ?

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The Branches of Large Electricity Companies in Portugal. From Trade to the Transfer and Adaptation of Technology (Twentieth Century)

← 124 | 125 →

The Branches of Large Electricity Companies in Portugal

From Trade to the Transfer and Adaptation of Technology (20th Century)1



In the last decade of the 19th and first decades of the 20th century there was a movement of capital and engineers from Central and Northern Europe to the countries of Southern Europe and other continents. Large companies sought to obtain concessions and establish branches in Portugal, favouring the circulation of technical knowledge and transfer of technology to the Portuguese industry.

Among the various examples of the representatives of foreign companies in Portugal we find Jayme da Costa Ltd. established in 1916 in Lisbon, which was a branch of the Swedish company ASEA, as well as STAAL, ATLAS DIESEL (Sweden), Landis & GYR (Switzerland), Electro Helios, and a small enterprise, Electro-Moderna Ldª.

Another example is EFACEC a company founded in 1948 in Porto, that was a partnership between the Portuguese company CUF – Companhia União Fabril, and ACEC – Ateliers de Constructions Électriques de Charleroi. This enterprise started the industrial production of electric motors and transformers, and later on acquired a substantial share of the national production of electrical equipment.

Using Estatística das Instalações Eletricas em Portugal (Statistics on Electrical Installations in Portugal) from 1928 until 1950 we can identify the foreign enterprises acting in the Portuguese market: Siemens, BBC, ASEA, Oerlikon, etc. We can also establish a relationship between the development of the electric network and the growth of production and consumption of electricity in the principal urban centres. Finally we see how foreign firms were a stimulus to the creation of national enterprises, especially those of small scale, in Portugal.

Keywords: electrification, market, enterprises, agency, equipment, Portugal

* ← 125 | 126 →


The internationalization of large electricity companies, which took place from the last decades of the 19th century on, reached Portugal as well and favoured the transfer of technology, which was adapted to the country’s economical and geographical context. It also favoured the mobility of technicians around various industrial sites, selling and installing equipment.

This reality extended into the 20th century and from the 1920s we have been witnessing a second wave of the internationalization movement of the most important groups of electrical manufacturing in Europe: Siemens, AEG, BBC, ASEA.

In this text we propose to analyse commercial relations, including the transfer, appropriation and adaptation of technology, between Portugal and other European countries from the First World War to 1960, as illustrated by two specific examples – the Jayme da Costa and EFACEC enterprises.

Electricity in Portugal, up to the First World War

From the last decades of the 19th century on, setting up electricity networks in Portugal became part of electrical manufacturers’ process of internationalization.2 With this strategy, they sought to make the most of their specific competencies in the technology of production and distribution of electricity as well as in the techniques of management and commercialization. They relied on a network of managers and technicians who worked in the electrical sector.3

This internationalization undertaken by the major companies implied the establishment of representatives and branches in other countries to act as intermediaries between sellers and buyers, ensuring greater efficiency in the acquisition and transportation of machinery and equipment. ← 126 | 127 →

In Portugal, the introduction of electricity dates back to the end of the 19th century. But a shortage of local capital and electrotechnical engineers4 led to investment by foreign banks, entrepreneurs and companies as shown by the case of the CRGE-Companhia Reunidas de Gás e Electricidade, founded in 1891 (see table 1). One of the most striking examples of foreign investment in Portuguese enterprises is that of SOFINA, a company founded in 1891. Since 1905, it began to invest in several countries, such as Spain5 and in 1913 it became the majority stockholder of CRGE, by subscribing 96,000 shares. SOFINA’s presence in Portuguese companies extended to the Sociedade Energia Electrica, founded in Porto in 1908.6

Table I. The largest shareholders of CRGE (1901-1911)


Source: Matos e Silva, “Foreign capital and problems of agency,” 149.

The first suppliers of electrical equipment established in Portugal were branches or representatives of foreign companies. Such was the case of the Sociedade de Emílio Biel, a representative of Schuckert & Cie, from ← 127 | 128 → Nuremberg, which by 1895 had already installed 24 dynamos and over 1,826 incandescent light bulbs and arc lamps across the country.7

The presence of Siemens in Portugal dates from the year 1876, when the company installed a furnace with heat recovery system in the Real Fábrica de Vidros da Marinha (a glass factory). In the ensuing years, Siemens supplied machines and other equipment to several Portuguese companies, including those needed by the tramways of Porto, which began working in 1895, and by the tramways of Lisbon, which started operating in 1901.8 Initially, acquisitions were made through Madrid, where the German group Siemens founded in 1899 the Compañia Anónima Española de Electricidad,9 but in 1905 a new branch was created in Lisbon, under the name Companhia Portuguesa de Electricidade Siemens-Schuckert Werke, Lda, with an office in the city of Porto.10 The opening of this branch was a sign of the development which the Portuguese electricity market had undergone since the end of the 19th century.

Another example of electricity companies acting in Portugal is given by AEG, which by 1910 had installed in the country several hydro-electrical and thermal power stations, for instance in Évora, Chaves, Régua, Lamego and Angra do Heroísmo, which produced energy for lighting and industrial consumption. AEG’s activities extended to the construction of electrical power stations linked to tramways in the country’s main cities – Lisbon, Porto and Coimbra.

Until the First World War, with the exceptions of CRGE in Lisbon and Sociedade Energia Elétrica in Porto, the electricity sector was composed of a large number of producers who owned small power stations, mostly thermal, aimed mainly at supplying power for public lighting. In the absence of large producers and of a distribution network at the regional level, the big plants which started to use electricity were forced to install ← 128 | 129 → their own power stations. Thus, by 1910, 73 such stations had been registered, and during that year another 9 were created.

The Great War and the opportunities for new Portuguese electricity companies: Electro-Moderna Lda and Jayme da Costa SA

In Portugal as in several other countries, the First World War had consequences both on the setting up and the development of hydro-electrical concessions and of electrical power stations.11

In 1917, the country had 39 electrical power stations – 12 hydro-electrical, 21 thermal and 6 mixed-type.12 They totalled a power output of 13,136 kW, with an average of 336.8 kW per station and an average consumption of 1.9 kW per 100 inhabitants. The consumption data in Portugal, in the first quarter of the 20th century, show a pronounced distance between the Portuguese market, covering only 15% of the country’s municipalities, and the consumption levels in the main European countries. Interest in hydro-electricity, which had begun at the end of the 19th century, saw an increase during the First World War13 due to the shortage of imported coal, which would be reflected in the activity of thermal power stations – especially those belonging to the big companies in Lisbon and Porto, namely CRGE and Sociedade de Energia Eléctrica.

The war years were, in effect, a period of difficulties and lack of stability in electrical power supply, but at the same time they provided an opportunity for Portuguese enterprises to invest in the electricity sector, proving their ability to adapt to the new market conditions, focusing on the manufacture and repair of electrical engines, and reinforcing the technical skills of their workshops in the areas of metallurgy and electricity.14 On the other hand, we witness the emergence of new import ← 129 | 130 → companies, branches and subsidiaries of foreign companies, which took the war-imposed restrictions on importation as a business opportunity.

The shortage of imported goods was crucial in bringing to existence units devoted to making electrical products, as exemplified by enterprises such as Barreto & Vital, Corte Real & Cª, Cabos Ávila and Moderna – Sociedade de Serração Mecânica.15 The latter is linked to the birth of one of the most emblematic Portuguese makers of electrical engines, transformers and other gear for the home market, the EFACEC group, which will be analysed further in this article.

Its origins go back to the year 1915, with the setting up of a small factory called A Moderna – Sociedade de Serração Mecânica, which would later become Electro-Moderna Lda, located in the city of Porto. Born in a context of shortage of raw materials and highly expensive imported equipment, such as electrical engines, this small, workshop-based enterprise sought to cater to the market as far as its technical capacities could go. To that end, the company set up a Secção Metalúrgica (Metallurgical Division) for repairing electrical machinery. Also, making good use of its managers’ and technicians’ knowledge, it sought to find solutions for the lack of imported equipment – by repairing machines, recycling materials and finally manufacturing electrical engines.16

Also taking advantage of the market opportunities opened up by the Great War, another small company was created on January 22nd, 1916. Called Santos, Costa & Nogueira, with headquarters in Lisbon, it had a capital stock of 25,000$00, distributed among three partners.17 Months later, when the new partner Jaime da Costa joined in, the name was changed to Jayme da Costa – Mecânica e Electricidade, and later on to Jayme da Costa Engenheiros Porto-Lisboa.

The entrance of this new partner was decisive for the development of the company. A merchant, Jaime da Costa (born 1887) had experience in this field since he had worked several years, in Lisbon, for the British enterprise F. Street & Ca. Lda,18 which sold electrical products, as well ← 130 | 131 → as steam machinery, pipes and accessories. This enterprise was also specialized in the installation of central heating equipment in Portugal.19

Fig. 1. Photograph of the 1924 Industrial Exhibition in Palácio de Cristal in Porto (“Crystal Palace, 1924”). Jayme da Costa Ltd., representative of ASEA20


Source: Arquivo da Jayme da Costa SA. Photo 8916-006.

From its very start, this enterprise was involved in tenders for the supply of machinery for the Lindoso dam, given in concession to the Spanish enterprise Electra del Lima, with a Francis turbine made by Escher Wyss & Cie21 (a Swiss enterprise based in Zurich) and also in the project by Empresa Hidro-eléctrica de Varoza – Porto for the installation of an “Ensemble de la turbine en bâche Spirale, coupe longitudinale et transversale, Échelle 01.10.22 Many other orders and installations followed. ← 131 | 132 →

The electricity sector after the First World War

Following the troubled times of the Great War, the use of electricity in industry in Portugal saw a sharp increase,23 and the number of industries resorting to this type of energy would eventually double. This trend was linked to the development of the Portuguese economy which, according to some authors, matched the growth indicators of other European economies. From 1910 to 1924, the Portuguese production index showed a 40% rise.24

Interest in hydro-electricity began during the war, but now it had become more incisive. The Lindoso dam constructed in 1918 was given in concession to Electra del Lima, and to make the distribution of the electricity produced by this dam was created the União Eléctrica Portuguesa in 1919, one of the main electricity enterprises operating in the region of Porto, that in 1923 established a contract with the municipality.25

In 1929, when the first Estatística das Instalações Elétricas em Portugal [Statistics on Electrical Installations in Portugal] was published the number of stations rose to 354, of which 69 were hydraulic and 285 thermal. At the time, only two of the former and three of the latter produced power above 5,000 kW and, as Ezequiel de Campos26 put it, the country was still characterized by “a veritable dispersion of minuscule station.”27

After the war, several industries adhered to electricity, especially in the textile, milling, chemical and metallurgic sectors. However, the use of electricity depended either on an existing distribution network – covering in most cases a city and its surrounding area – or on the establishment of a private power station. In 1924, the city of Porto’s municipal network fed 1,498 engines, most of them small; only 1.9% of the engines had a power output of more than 10 HP. At that same time, the number of engines in ← 132 | 133 → Lisbon was 1,552. In 1927, electrical power consumed by the industry rose to 33.5% of the total electricity produced in the country.28

In 1928, Lisbon consumed 72,894,523 kW, and Porto 51,949,033 kW.29 In 1931 these figures rose to 87,730,678 kW in Lisbon and 59,605,734 kW in Porto.30

The 1920s would witness changes prompted by the initiative of some entrepreneurs and industrialists, by the entry of foreign capital, and above all by the action of City Halls, and later on with the interconnection and co-operation between producers and distributors.31 This was accompanied by technological transfer followed by the installation of autonomous generators for producing electricity and, lastly, by the emergence of high-voltage and low-voltage electrical distribution networks, some of which quickly reached 30 or 40 kilometres in length.32

In this process of electrification of the country, the state played a crucial role in regularizing the sector, by formalizing the concessions for hydro-electrical explorations and construction of thermal power stations, namely those of Lindoso, Tejo33 and Freixo, among others. At the same time several companies were created, such as UEP-União Elétrica Portuguesa (aimed at distributing the energy produced by Electra del Lima, in Lindoso); CHENOP-Companhia Hidroelétrica do Norte de Portugal.

The decree dated October 27th 1926, which gave “public interest” status to Rede Eléctrica Nacional [National Electrical Network], created a special electrification fund with the purpose of helping the construction of new lines, the installation of thermal stations and the creation of industries which could make use of the existing lines’ ← 133 | 134 → available transport capacity, or of the stations’ available power.34 This led to a study of the specific needs for lines of transportation and distribution, especially for urban centres, coastline areas and the country’s southern region.

This new legislation, while framing the exploration of hydraulic resources, also shows the need for regulation of a process already in motion: the creation of a National Electrical Network. The figures presented in Estatística das Instalações Eléctricas em Portugal show, for the year 1927, an installed capacity of 134,156 kW (29% of autonomous producers) and, in 1929, already a figure of 144,222 kW (30.2% are autonomous producers).35 The growth in installed electrical capacity is directly connected to the grant of new concessions, the construction of new power stations, and the expansion in production equipment.

The growth in installed electrical capacity is directly connected to the grant of new concessions, the construction of new power stations, and the expansion in production equipment. In 1929, in the main urban centres – Coimbra, Porto, Lisbon – the figures show a total output of 240,425,707 kWh (this includes both thermal and hydraulic production), with a predominance of the thermal kind.

As for consumption, figures indicate a total of 205,007,750 kWh – 78,112,873 kW in the district of Lisbon and 57,944,694 kW in Porto – assigned to public and private lighting, traction, motive power, chemical industry and consumers fed by private service stations.36

In Lisbon the consumption per capita for 1927 was 85.25 kWh. Two years later, it rose to 105.06 kWh. For the city of Porto, the consumption went from 59.27 kWh in 1927 to 73.58 kW a year later.37 ← 134 | 135 →

Table II. Production and consumption in the city of Lisbon: 1929, 1931, 1935, 1938


Sources: E.I.E.P. – Ministério das Obras Públicas e Comunicações (MOPC), Estatísticas das Instalações Electricas em Portugal (1929), 11-12; MOPC, Estatísticas (1931), 11,15; MOPC, Estatísticas (1935), XXI, XXXI, MOPC, Estatísticas (1938), XXXII, XLIII.

Table III. Production and consumption of electricity in the city of Porto: 1929, 1931, 1935, 1938


Sources: E.I.E.P. – Ministério das Obras Públicas e Comunicações (MOPC), Estatísticas das Instalações Electricas em Portugal (1929), 11-12; MOPC, Estatísticas (1931), 11,15; MOPC, Estatísticas (1935), XXI, XXXI, MOPC, Estatísticas (1938), XXXII, XLIII. ← 135 | 136 →

Tables II and III show that Lisbon produced more than it consumed, while Porto did not produce enough for its consumption and for that reason the city from the north of Portugal imported energy from others places where hydroelectric plants were installed (especially Lindoso, near the border with Spain). The same tables reveal that electricity production and consumption increased during the 1930s.

These data imply an increase in the number of electrical machines in Portugal after the Great War, most of them being imported. This led the government to alter its importation taxes, thereby increasing its dividends on this type of material. From the 1920s on, these machines began to be imported more steadily, due to the construction of the first stations and hydraulic explorations which made it possible to produce more energy at lower prices for public lighting and industrial activity. Over the next decade, the figures weren’t significantly modified. We simply observe an increase in the number of equipment units.

This was a period of business opportunities for foreign companies and technological transfer. Simultaneously, it was a period of greater engagement of the State through large-scale investments to improve hydro-electric production and the network expansion. During the decades 1920-1960 the public sector intervened regularly in energy, and particularly in hydroelectricity.

With the help of the work Estatística de Instalações Eléctricas em Portugal, published from 1928 to 1948 by the Ministério das Obras Publicas e Comunicação (Ministry of Public Works and Communications) – later to become Ministério da Economia (Ministry of Economy) – which listed the brands of generators and alternators installed in public service power stations, we can see that the Portuguese market was dominated by brands from Germany, Switzerland and Sweden. These countries took the lead in the manufacture of high power engines and, at the beginning of the 20th century, they were the main suppliers of material for the production of thermal and hydroelectric energy in Portugal. ← 136 | 137 →

Table IV. Electrical equipment: alternators and dynamos installed in public service hydroelectric stations in 1928


Source: Administração Geral dos Serviços Hidráulicos, Estatística das Instalações Elétricas em Portugal, (Lisboa: Imprensa Nacional, 1929), 12-25 and 34-70.

For good results, the country’s process of electrification depended on the existence of adequate technology as well as technical maintenance of premises and equipment.

The diagrams show that the equipment installed in thermal power stations came, for the most part, from German enterprises such as Siemens and AEG, followed by ASEA, from Sweden, and, further behind, Brown Boveri & Cª and Oerlikon, from Switzerland. We also see, in lesser numbers, generators and alternators of Belgian, French and American origin. In the case of hydroelectric stations, Swiss equipment from Oerlikon and Brown Boveri was more prominent, as well as equipment made by the Swedish firm ASEA.

We can conclude that, in 1928, the Portuguese market for electrical equipment was dominated by the big European makers, which supplied the country’s hydroelectric and thermal stations alike. ← 137 | 138 →

Table V. Generators and Alternators in public service Hydroelectric Stations in 1938


Source: MOPC – JEN – Estatística das Instalações Elétricas em Portugal, year 1938 (Lisbon, Imprensa Nacional 1939), Part II, 2-21. ← 138 | 139 →

Table VI. Generators and Alternators in public service Thermal Stations in 1938


Source: Ministério das Obras Publicas e Comunicações – Junta de Eletrificação Nacional, Estatística das Instalações Elétricas em Portugal, year 1938 (Lisbon: Imprensa Nacional, 1939), 22-71.

Ten years after the first Estatísticas das Instalações Elétricas [statistics of electrical installations], and before the outbreak of the Second World War, the data show us that public service power stations continued to use predominantly Swiss, Swedish and German equipment – especially by Oerlikon, BBC – Brown Boveri & Cº, ASEA, Siemens and AEG.

This supports what Paquier and Fridlund said about the fact that after the First World War the Swiss market proved to be too small for the Baden ← 139 | 140 → Group, and the B.B.C. “had managed to grow over its domestic market and to gain a firm footing in the market of several large countries […]. Also ASEA, soon started an export offensive to find new market for its standard products.”38

In light of the growing importance of foreign companies, after the First World War, the firm Jayme da Costa Engenheiros Porto-Lisboa became the representative of several Swedish companies, such as ASEA, STAL and ATLAS DIESEL, and in that capacity it competed for the supply of imported machinery for the new electrical projects. Later on, Jayme da Costa represented English and American firms: John Robson Ltd. (Horizontal motors – Shipley – England); R.N. – Diesel Engine Cª (Altrincham-England); BamFords Ltd. (Diesel Motors Uttoxeter-England); Peerless Pump Division (Los Angeles-USA); Palmer Bros (New York-USA).

In the Northern region, as far back as the 1920s, and above all in the cities of Braga and Porto, we find several factories which possessed electrical engines made by ASEA, such as the textile company Companhia Fabril do Minho and the Companhia Fabril do Cávado.39 The latter exploited a paper factory and a weaving mill which, in 1928, utilized electrical energy to supply 480 looms, using an ASEA 500 kVA alternator at 400 volts.40

In the South, the firm Jayme da Costa was responsible for supplying diverse equipment, notably for the thermal power station owned by the Manutenção Militar, a structure that lent support to the Portuguese Army. In 1924, Jayme da Costa Lda furnished a STAL 8,000 kW turbo-alternator to CRGE, for Central Tejo41 and, for the Nossa Senhora da Ermida hydroelectric station, in Lousã, it supplied two Pelton Escher Wyss turbines and ASEA alternators.42

Seeking to divulge its products and technical capabilities, the firm Jayme da Costa took part in various exhibitions organized in Portugal throughout the 1920s. In 1924, for example, it participated in an exhibition at the Palácio de Cristal, in Porto, as the official representative of the Swedish firm ASEA. ← 140 | 141 →

Simultaneously, the firm A Moderna – Sociedade de Serração Mecânica, although at the end of the First World War it had stopped making engines, created, in 1921, a Secção de Metalúrgica (Metallurgy Section), the predecessor of EML-Electro-Moderna Lda, devoted to the production of electrical engines, dynamos, transformers and other electrical machinery.43

Production of electricity in the decades from 1940 to 1960

Only in the 1940s did the Portuguese state become aware of the energy sector’s strategic value and, as Ezequiel Campos had noted 20 years earlier, of the need to extract all possible advantages from the hydraulic resources, especially the Douro River. Likewise the electrotechnical engineer José Ferreira Dias, appointed in 1936 as director of the Junta de Eletrificação Nacional, was a supporter of producing electrical energy through hydraulic exploitation, and he introduced rules for the production and distribution of this kind of power. The year 1944 saw the approval, on the initiative of Ferreira Dias – then president of the Order of Engineers – of two laws: Lei No. 2002, da Eletrificação Nacional, which formalized the preference for hydraulic over thermal energy; and Lei No. 2005, do Fomento e Reorganização Industrial, dealing with matters of industrial reorganization.

According to estimates referred by Ferreira Dias,

[…] The construction of the new electrical stations and of the transportation network would make it possible to dispense with some 300,000 tonnes of fuels from abroad and to free energy supply from the contingencies of coal importation, […] we will be able to reduce the likelihood of restrictions to consumption and we will provide the nation with a larger energy output, enabling the establishment of new industries, which would otherwise be unviable.44

However, research reveals that additional investment and renewal of fixed capital tended to favour more thermal engines than hydraulic ones, and that this was due to technical aspects preventing investments in the construction of dams and also more hydraulic engines from being installed, especially those which were larger in size, due to limited discharge levels. These options were also affected by favourable conditions offered by makers and dealers of machinery, who left their stamp on the market for electrical engines and machinery. ← 141 | 142 →

Table VII. Production and Consumption of Electricity in Portugal: 1927-1948


Source: Ministry of Economy – Direcção General dos Serviços Eléctricos, Estatística das Instalações Eléctricas em Portugal year 1962, Vol. I (Lisboa: Imprensa Nacional, 1963), XXXV and XXXVII.

As we can see from the diagram displaying the data harvested in Estatística das Instalações Eléctricas em Portugal from 1929 onwards, the figures for ‘Consumption’ and ‘Production’ of energy are interrelated, growing side by side and accompanying the market and the country’s electrical installed capacity. The reports accompanying the data mention an increase from 5% to 8.1% in consumption between 1930 and 1940. In addition, we can see that both production and consumption stagnated in 1942, 1943 and 1944, only to start growing again especially throughout the 1950s, when some large hydro-electric stations started to operate. Dropping production figures are attributed by the Junta de Eletrificação Nacional to low rainfall levels in the period from 1942 to 1945, which imposed a more intense use of thermal stations.

The war context, marked by shortage of fuel, raw materials and electrical equipment, forced the country to restrict consumption, limit the use of electricity, alter industrial working hours and reduce the number of workdays, especially from 1943 to 1945. In Porto, the electrical traction service itself was made to stop several hours every day.45 The scarcity of coal made people look for home resources, namely through wider utilization of national coal (mines of São Pedro da Cova and Rio Maior). ← 142 | 143 →

The 1940s saw the creation of several big enterprises, such as Hidroelétrica do Zêzere and Hidroelétrica do Cávado46 and the start of the operation of some hydro-electrical power stations, such those of Guilhofrei, those of Companhia Electro-Hidráulica de Portugal, the power station of Hidroelétrica do Alto Alentejo on the Nisa river and, in 1945, Senhora do Porto also on the Ave river. From 1940 to 1941, production rose from 426 to 448 millions of kWh, meaning an increase of 5.2% from the previous year.47 Between 1940 and 1960 we saw the sequential construction of hydroelectric projects, and in the 1960s the acceleration of economic growth in Portugal.

From the 1930s on, the top consumers of electrical energy use were the textile industry (8.63 million kWh), building materials (28 million kWh), the food industry (24 million kWh) and mechanical construction (15 million kWh).48

After the end of the Second World War, the general picture regarding the electrical manufacturers – in particular those dealing with installation of power stations and supply of equipment and machinery – is one of great stability, featuring the same players from the previous decades: Siemens, Brown Boveri & Cº, ASEA, AEG and the Swiss firm Oerlikon.

Table VIII. Equipment installed in public hydro-electric stations in 1948


Source: Ministério das Obras Publicas e Comunicações – Junta de Electrificação Nacional – Estatística das Instalações Eléctricas em Portugal (EIEP), 1948 (Lisboa: Imprensa Nacional, 1949), 6-46. ← 143 | 144 →

Table IX. Equipment installed in public thermal power stations in 1948


Source: Ministério das Obras Publicas e Comunicações. Junta de Electrificação Nacional, EIEP, 1948 (Lisboa: Imprensa Nacional, 1949), 3 to 40.

As we can see in Table 7 and 8, equipment from Siemens, B.B.C., Oerlikon and Belgian and French manufacturers were used in the public hydro-electric stations in 1948, and we see also some pioneer Portuguese enterprises in the sector: Jayme da Costa and EFACEC.

Since 1944, Portugal had a new instrument: The National Electrification Program –, and the economic policies carried out by the ‘Estado Novo’ promoted the investment in companies dedicated to the production and sale of electrical products. Also the ‘I Plano de Fomento’ from 1953-58 and later on the ‘II Plano de Fomento’ from 1959-1964 established priorities to the modernization of our industrial fabric, specially metallurgical, chemical, and naturally the electrical material industries.

It was in this context that a Portuguese-Belgian consortium bringing together EFA (E.F.M.E.) and ACEC – Ateliers de Constructions ← 144 | 145 → Electriques Charleroi, dedicated to the production of electrical engines, came into existence. The company would be named: EFACEC.49

EFACEC: the national maker of electrical engines

As we mentioned earlier, in 1921 EML – Electro-Moderna Lda wished to move into the production of electrical engines, but could not find the means and support needed to start off with their project. It was necessary to wait until the 1939-45 worldwide conflict, which blocked access to raw materials, to the use uncommon technical solutions and to start producing electrical engines – namely by employing and recycling raw materials and old used machines, utilizing magnetic circuits from discarded alternators, and isolating copper wire with cotton thread.50 After the untimely death of its owner, Ribeiro Gonçalves, the firm’s command passed on to his sons: Guilherme and António Ricca Gonçalves (the latter an engineer), who sought to carry on with the project and find new technical solutions, welcoming the entry of new partners to give impulse to the firm.

Taking advantage of the state support laid down in the energy policies established in the 1940s, the firm E.F.M.E. – Empresa Fabril de Máquinas Elétricas, S.A.R.L. was founded in 1948, with the following stockholders: Electro-Moderna Lda, with 20% of the capital; ACEC – Ateliers de Constructions Electriques de Charleroi, (enterprise belonging to the Empain group) with another 20%; and CUF – Companhia União Fabril, from Barreiro, which took up 45% of the capital. The remaining 15% were scattered among small stockholders. E.F.M.E., operating under the brand name EFA ACEC (later EFACEC), quickly became the first national enterprise devoted to the production of electrical engines, allowing the country to receive an important transfer of know-how in the area of electrical equipment and machines.

In 1950, E.F.M.E. stated in its catalogues that it was an enterprise with “a new brand, a new technique, new types of electrical engines and transformers made in Portugal,” and presented itself as an actor of a new project in the country’s electricity sector. It possessed then a significant share of the national market for the manufacture of series DC motors and medium-voltage circuit breakers.

In 1955, in addition to engines, this firm built 1,600 kVA transformers. Two years later, after the expansion of its Arroteia premises, it was making 65.00 kV transformers and, by 1959, 20 MVA machines. This was proof of the firm’s increasing output capacity and also of the growing needs of ← 145 | 146 → the country’s electricity network. The technical skills of this company can be measured by its ability to obtain production licenses for manufacturing systems – which enabled it, in 1961, to make Portugal’s first SHELL-type transformer and to start the production of low voltage oil circuit breakers (30 KV) under license from DELLE.51

In the 1950s and 1960s Portugal enjoyed some economic prosperity, partly the result of a programme of reorganization of the industrial sector supported by the 1º Plano de Fomento (1953-1958) which was reflected in the growth of the industry’s more modern sectors, with an emphasis on the chemical, oil, and mechanical industries. From 1950 to 1970, the output of rotating machines increased at an annual average of 20%.52

The saturation of the Arroteia facilities, limiting its engine production capacity (25,062 engines, 2,746 pumps and 1,008 ventilators), led to the acquisition of 6.4 hectares of land in Maia, in 1965, where EFACEC opened a new plant dedicated to the production of armoured three-phase engines. They used methods such as metal casting, and bet on the wide-scale use of aluminium alloy to make their various supporting products: casings, terminal boxes, ventilator protection lids. The new production line resorted to semi-automatic machines and perfected its testing devices and quality control. They focused on producing engines in the range from 0.2 kW to 7.5 kW, with an emphasis on armoured three-phase engines and single-phase engines.

Gradually, EFACEC became an important enterprise with different units, producing modern equipment: transformers, motors. In 1958 C.U.F. Companhia União Fabril leaves the group and the ACEC acquired its position. One year later, in 1959 SOPREL Company, an enterprise dedicated to medium and high-voltage protection apparatus and circuit breakers, switchboards and modular switchgear, was incorporated in the group.53 In the 1960 decade the emblematic company invested and expanded its factory under the protection of the engineer Ferreira Dias, who took up the Ministry of Economy from 1958 to 1962. For this reason the Laboratório de Alta Tensão da Divisão de Transformadores [High-Voltage Laboratory of the Transformers Division], inaugurated by the firm in 1967, bore the name of this engineer. ← 146 | 147 →

Fig. 2. Delivery of an EFACEC transformer, considered “the largest transformer made in Portugal” and destined for the Central Térmica de Setúbal


Source: Arquivo ADEFACEC-Associação Desportiva EFACEC.

In 1973, EFACEC became the major stockholder at JORRO, a maker of hydraulic pumps. Later on, it created autonomous divisions inside the company: Divisão de Máquinas Hidráulicas (hydraulic machines) and Divisão de Alta Tensão (high voltage). By 1970 the EFACEC Company was firmly established in the Portuguese home market.

In spite of this, in the ensuing years its output of electrical machinery rose considerably. In 1976 was opened a production area for traction systems, and around this time was delivered the first three-phase, 420 kV, 315 MVA, transformer, weighing 450 tonnes – the largest three-phase unit built in Portugal.

The firm Jayme da Costa Lda, a branch of ASEA

Throughout the 1930s and 1940s the firm Jayme da Costa, acting as the representative of the Swedish company ASEA in Portugal, saw its presence grow in the national electricity market, as shown by the number of equipment items registered in the Estatística das Instalações Eléctricas em Portugal. In 1930, the firm installed Pelton Escher Wyss 315 CV and 185 CV turbines and ASEA alternators at the N. Sª da Ermida hydro-electric power station, owned by Companhia Elétrica das Beiras, in Lousã, and supplied the pipes for the shaft leading to the engine room, a “Van Den Kerchove” 650 CV steam engine and an ASEA alternator to the Fábrica do Bugio hydro-electric station, in Fafe. At the Beato thermal power station, ← 147 | 148 → owned by the Manutenção Militar in Lisbon, it installed five Diesel engines of the POLAR brand, with their respective alternators.54

Fig. 3. Thermal power station of Manutenção Militar in Beato, Lisbon (circa 1920) Installation of two POLAR Diesel engines, 1,000 CV each, and two ASEA 850 kVA alternators, 400 V each


Source: Jayme da Costa Lda, Instalações de Força Motriz (Porto: Jayme da Costa Lda, 1945), 22.

During these two decades, the company also got involved in several projects, notably the supply of electrical machines to the Laboratório de Máquinas Térmicas belonging to Engineering Faculty of the University of Porto’s, the electrification of many textile, paper and cork industries – highlighted by the electrification of the firm Têxtil Manuel Gonçalves, headquartered in Famalicão – and the supply of a POLAR 240 CV Diesel engine and an ASEA 210 kVA, 400 V alternator to the Fábrica Triunfo thermal power station, in Coimbra.

At the same time, the firm expanded its representation portfolio, making deals with the Swedish brands STAL – a manufacturer of steam turbines, turbo-alternators and refrigeration machines – and ATLAS DIESEL; the Swiss company Landis & GY; and the British brands John Robson Ltd., Palmer Bros and PERLESS Pump Division (USA).

The enterprise Jayme da Costa marketed such diverse products as steam and hydraulic turbines, diesel and electrical engines, centrifugal pumps, counters, electric stoves and solder pastes, among various other electrical equipment and materials needed in electrical installations. ← 148 | 149 →

This firm’s business activity is an indication of the commercial dynamics associated with the introduction of electricity in Portugal, and of the trade relations established with countries from Northern and Central Europe, especially Sweden, Switzerland and Germany.

The growth of the market and the entrepreneurial capability of the enterprise Jayme da Costa led the company, in 1947, to install a factory in Campanhã (Porto). This plant specialized in electric panels, monitoring systems, distribution panels and, later on, break switches and circuit breakers, high voltage circuit breakers and three-pole break switches, among other items, but they never produced electrical engines.

The firm went into many electrification projects for plants in the textile industry. Among the highlights are the Companhia da Fábrica de Fiação de Tomar, the Industrial de Santo Tirso Lda, the Fábrica de Fiação e Tecidos do Vale, in Famalicão, the Fábrica de Tecidos de Vila-Flor Lda, in Guimarães. In Porto, the company supplied and installed electrical equipment: for the wiring of the Azevedo Soares & Cª Lda. Factory; for EFANOR – Empresa Fabril do Norte, in Matosinhos; for the Fábrica de Fiação e Tecidos do Campo Alegre; for the Areosa plant; for Litografia Maia – engines for the operation of lithographic machines (“offset”); and for the Cooperativa de Pedreiros, among others.

In the 1950s Jaime da Costa leaves the firm and two electrotechnical engineers António Terrão and Hermano Braga,55 partners of enterprise Jayme da Costa, in addition to their technical responsibilities, took up the position of firm managers (they became majority stockholders in 1954), something which would later be reflected in changes to the firm’s statutes. António Terrão gradually took up the leadership, and centered it even more around the city of Porto. He redefined the company’s internal organization, pushed the technical staff to learn in a systematic way both installation methods and safety procedures, through the diffusion of Referências Técnicas [Technical References]. Encouraged by the municipality policies with cheap rates for home consumers, the enterprise Jayme da Costa promoted the installation of electrical stoves (of the brand Electro-Hélios), as well as that of converters and fan heaters. The firm also marketed electrical equipment for compressed air installation, drilling hammers and shovel wheel loaders, among other items.

From 1960 on, following Portugal’s entry in EFTA, Jayme da Costa ceased to represent ASEA, since this company opened its own branches in Lisbon and Porto, forcing the former representative to look for new partnerships and contracts for the transfer of technology – notably with ← 149 | 150 → the enterprise Concordia Spretcher & Schun – and to expand its market to Angola, where it had the intention of building a factory.

On its side, the firm EFACEC throughout the 1960s consolidated its position in the national market, supplying equipment for several projects, especially for the network of substations then under construction.

Table X. Generators and transformers installed in power stations in 1962


Source: Ministério das Obras Publicas e Comunicações. Junta de Electrificação Nacional, EIEP, 1963, 2 – 11.

As we can see in the diagram, EFACEC and the Belgian company ACEC stand out in the market of providers of transformers for substations, while the supply and maintenance of generators continued to be secured by companies such as ASEA, B.B.C. and Siemens through their subsidiaries and branches.

The growth of energy suffered from a period of crisis at the end of the 1960s and during the oil crisis of 1973, which resulted in rising costs of lighting, heating, motive force and traction. These alterations revealed that Portugal, after all, was still dependent on international oil and coal prices, and that the country had not been able, during the Estado Novo ← 150 | 151 → period, to reach a sustainable energetic autonomy through investment in the construction of dams.56 Hydroelectricity was still insufficiently developed, particularly when compared with others countries. By the end of 1960 the couple hydroelectricity-heavy industry has been abandoned and investment was concentrated thereafter in thermal power stations that burned liquid fuel.


Representatives of the big foreign manufacturers of electrical engines and equipment have been present in Portugal since the close of the 19th century, linked to the construction of the country’s first power stations. Only with the restrictions on importation caused by the First World War were opportunities created for the appearance of the first Portuguese manufacturers of electrical engines and equipment, such as Electro-Moderna and Jayme da Costa – the two examples we have studied in this paper. From the 1920s on, Portugal became a market increasingly disputed by European companies, opening their branches or commercial offices within the country. The branches of these mother-firms, acting as their extensions, assumed a decisive role in brand promotion, contributing to the process of electrification. They supplied technologically up-to-date equipment, catering to the constant and growing demand on the part of companies which were involved in the creation of new power stations, thus contributing to the advancement of the public lighting network and the supply of motive force to the industry. Firms like Siemens, B.B.C., ASEA and OERLIKON maintain an important position from 1920-1950, with the supply of electric material in Portugal, mainly generators and alternators.

During the Second World War, and throughout the 1950s, Portugal strengthened its technical capabilities and expanded its electrical network, through a significant rise in the number of hydro-electric power stations. In the 1940s, the conjunction of the Second World War and state initiatives for the accomplishment of a national electrical network created a favourable context for the emergence and development of the firm E.F.M.E. – Empresa Fabril de Máquinas Elétricas, S.A.R.L., later EFACEC, with the participation of the Belgian Company ACEC which operated since the 1940s in the Portuguese market. Other companies are branches of foreign companies, such as Jayme da Costa. We must underline that from 1944 Portugal has a new instrument to promote the electrical sector – the National Electrification Program-, and the economic policies ← 151 | 152 → carried out by Estado Novo gave the priority to the development of the metallurgical, chemical and, specially, electrical industries. Until the end of the 1960s these firms strengthened their commercial relationship with the foreign companies they represented, and benefited from their know-how, through acquisition of technical knowledge and transfer of technology, which they adapted to the Portuguese reality.

The branches of large companies in Portugal have a special role in the development of electrical network, in the technological transfer and in some cases they were a stimulus to the creation of national enterprise of small scale.

1 Research made in the project CIDEHUS – UID/HIS/00057/2013 (POCI-01-0145-FEDER-007702).

2 Thomas P. Hughes, Networks of Power. Electrification in Western Society, 1880-1930 (Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 1983); Alain Beltran et Patrice A. Carré, La Fée et la Servante. La société française face à l’électricité XIXe-XXe siècle (Paris: Belin, 1991); William J. Hausman, Peter Hertner, Mira Wilkins, Global Electrification: Multinational Enterprise and International Finance in the History of Light and Power, 1878–2007 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008).

3 Ana Cardoso de Matos and Álvaro Ferreira da Silva, “Foreign capital and problems of agency: the Companhias Reunidas de Gás e Electricidade in Lisbon (1890-1920),” TST. Transportes, Servicios y Telecomunicaciones 14 (2008): 143-161.

4 On the problem of lack of training of engineers see Ana Cardoso de Matos, “Formation, carrière et montée en puissance des ingénieurs électriciens au Portugal (de la fin du XIXe siècle aux années 1930),” in Des ingénieurs pour un monde nouveau, ed. André Grelon et Marcela Efmertova (Bruxelles: P.I.E. Peter Lang, to be published).

5 René Brion, “Le rôle de Sofina,” in Le financement de l’industrie électrique 1880-1950, ed. Monique Tredé-Boulner (Paris: AHEF/PUF, 1994), 217-33.

6 According to Christophe Bouneau the initial conception of an electrical inter­connecting of Europe “may be dated from 1920, with holdings, like SOFINA, and various international congresses relating electricity”. Christophe Bouneau, “Les réseaux de transport d’électricité en Europe occidentale depuis la fin du XIXe siècle: de la diversité des modèles nationaux à la recherche de la convergence européenne,” Annales historiques de l’électricité, 2 (2004): 23-37.

7 This Society also conducted the project and provided the machines for public lighting electricity Vila Real, one of the first Portuguese districts to benefit from this improvement.

8 Jorge Fernandes Alves, Siemens: 100 anos a projectar o futuro Portugal 1905-2005 (Amadora: Siemens, 2005), 77. Available from:

9 This enterprise was created with the purpose of making and selling electrical equipment and machinery. In 1910, after the acquisition of Industria Elétrica (founded in Barcelona in 1897 by Catalan industrialists) its name changed to Siemens – Schuckert – Industria Electrica SA. Isabel Bartolomé, “Quando La electrifications venia del Extranjero: la Transferencia Tecnologica y Capital intra-periferica en la Electrification Iberica (1890-1940)” (paper presented at the II Simpósio Internacional Eletrificação e modernização social, São Paulo, May 27-29, 3013).

10 By this time the German company was called Siemens-Schuckert Werke GmbH, after the acquisition of Schuckert in 1903.

11 Also after the Great War “two major developments took place. A first major change was the use of higher voltages for transmission lines” the other the financing “and construction of electricity networks”. Vincent Lagendijk, Electrifying Europe. The power of Europe in the construction of electricity networks (Amsterdam: Aksant, 2008), 40.

12 These data were published in Maximiliano Apolinário “A indústria da energia eléctrica em Portugal,” Revista das Obras Públicas e Minas (July-December, 1918): 103-113.

13 The interest in hydro-electricity during this period was also visible in other countries. In France, for example, requests for the concession of exploitation of hydroelectricity were numerous and during these years the power increased 94% (Beltran and Carré, La Fée et la Servante). In Spain during the year of the war there installed 165,000 kW. Isabel Bartolomé, “Los límites de la hulla blanca en vísperas de la guerra civil. Un ensayo de interpretación,” Revista de Historia Industrial 7 (1995): 109-140.

14 To France, Yves Bouvier has studied “The relationship between manufacturers and operators in the French electrical industry as the key to break dependency and to take part in the globalization.” Yves Bouvier, “Without and with the State: the French electrical manufacturers in a global economy” (paper presented at the World Business History Conference, Frankfurt, 2014). (accessed July 10, 2015)

15 Maciel Santos, “Os Capitais metalúrgicos em Portugal 1840-1930” (Ph.D. diss., Faculdade de Letras, Universidade do Porto, Portugal, 2000), 331.

16 EFACEC, EFACEC 50 anos: 1948-1998 (S. Mamede de Infesta: EFACEC, 1998), 12.

17 The partners were António Augusto dos Santos, Joaquim Mendes da Costa and Artur Martins Nogueira.

18 As examples of the supply of electrical materials we can mention: in 1912, the supply of steam machinery, two dynamos and a distribution board to Companhia Eborense de Electricidade, which explored electricity in the city of Évora. Ana Cardoso de Matos, “A electricidade na cidade de Évora: da Companhia eborense de Electricidade à União Eléctrica Portuguesa,” Revista da Faculdade de Letras. Historia FL/UP, 8 (2007): 196; in 1920, the supply of a steam boiler, a line shaft and belts to operate several pieces of gear, to Hospital Joaquim Urbano, in Porto.

19 Casa Pinto & Cruz: a História (Porto: Ed. Pinto & Cruz Lda, 2010), 24.

20 From left to right we can see Hermano Braga, António Terrão, Jaime da Costa and Carlos Caldeira Ribeiro the firm’s partners at the time.

21 Escher Wyss & Cie, with headquarters in Zurich, sold steam turbines and hydraulic turbines of the Francis and Pelton system.

22 Arquivo Jayme da Costa, No. 319 202.

23 Ana Cardoso de Matos et al., As imagens do Gás. As Companhias Reunidas de Gás e Electricidade e a produção e distribuição de gás em Lisboa (Lisboa: EDP, 2004).

24 Eugénia Mata e Valério, Nuno Valério, História económica de Portugal: Uma perspectiva global (Lisboa: Editorial Presença, 1989, 2003), 308.

25 Maria da Luz Sampaio, “A Central do Freixo: um projecto termoeléctrico para a região do Porto” (Master diss., Faculdade de Letras, Universidade do Porto, 2008). (accessed May 5, 2015).

26 Ezequiel Campos (1874-1965), an engineer and professor of University of Porto, played a major role in the electrification of Portugal.

27 Ezequiel de Campos, “Electrificação,” Revista da Ordem dos Engenheiros IV (1946): 166.

28 Ana Cardoso de Matos, “Electricidade, produção, distribuição e consumo,” in Dicionário da História da I República e do republicanismo, Vol. 1, coord. Maria Fernanda Rollo (Lisboa: Assembleia da República, 2014), 1104-11.

29 Ministério das Obras Públicas e Comunicações, Estatística das Instalações Eléctricas em Portugal (Lisboa: Imprensa Nacional, 1929), 8.

30 Ibid., 15.

31 Nuno Luís Madureira, “When the South Emulates the North: Energy Policies and nationalism in the Twentieth Century,” Contemporary European History 17/1 (2008): 1-21. See also: Ana Cardoso de Matos et al., A electricidade em Portugal: dos primórdios à II Guerra Mundial (Lisboa: EDP/Museu da Electricidade, 2004).

32 Nuno Luís Madureira e Sofia Teives, “Os ciclos de desenvolvimento,” in História da energia: Portugal 1890-1980, ed. Nuno Luís Madureira (Lisboa: Livros Horizonte, 2005), 20.

33 The Central Tejo I station was built in 1908, and Central Tejo II between 1914 and 1930, starting with the low-voltage boiler building. The high-voltage boiler building dates from 1930.

34 Lei dos aproveitamentos hidroeléctricos, 1926.

35 Ministério das Obras Públicas e Comunicações, Estatística das Instalações Eléctricas em Portugal (Lisboa: Imprensa Nacional, 1945), XLIV.

36 Ministério das Obras Públicas e Comunicações, Estatística das Instalações Eléctricas em Portugal (Lisboa: Imprensa Nacional, 1930), 10.

37 Ibid., 12.

38 Serge Paquier and Mats Fridlung, “The making of small industrial giants: the growth of the Swedish ASEA and the Swiss BBC through crises and challenges prior to 1914,” in Economic Crises and Restructuring in History: Experiences of Small Countries, ed. Tymo Myllyntaus (St. Katharinen: Scripta Mercaturae Verlag, 1998), 262.

39 Ana Cardoso de Matos et al., A electricidade em Portugal: dos primórdios à II Guerra Mundial (Lisboa: EDP/Museu da Electricidade, 2004).

40 Jayme da Costa Lda, Instalações de Força Motriz (Porto: Jayme da Costa Lda, 1945).

41 Ibid.

42 Ibid., 19.

43 EFACEC. EFACEC 50 anos: 1948-1998, 11-12

44 José Nascimento Ferreira Dias Júnior, Linha de Rumo I e II e outros escritos económicos 1926-1962, Vol. 1 and 2 (Lisboa: Banco de Portugal), 1998, 25.

45 Ministério das Obras Publicas e Comunicações, Estatística das Instalações Elétricas em Portugal (Lisboa: Imprensa Nacional, 1945), viii.

46 Ibid., 1945, iv.

47 Ibid., 1941, iii.

48 Ibid., 1936-1937, vii.

49 EFACEC was the junction of EFME – Empresa Fabril de Máquinas Electricas and ACEC – Ateliers de Construction Electriques de Charleroi.

50 EFACEC. EFACEC 50 anos: 1948-1998, 16.

51 Ibid.

52 Revista Electricidade 88 (1968).

53 EFACEC. EFACEC 50 anos: 1948-1998.

54 Jayme da Costa Lda, Instalações de Força Motriz, 23.

55 Jaime da Costa have worked from the 1920s decade with these two electrical engineers.

56 Fernanda Rollo e José Maria Brandão de Brito, “Indústria/Industrialização,” in Dicionário de História do Estado Novo, ed. Fernando Rosas & Brandão de Brito (Venda Nova: Bertrand, 1996), 460-480.