Abstract: Asymmetry and Discrimination in the Electricity Network: Portugal, 1920-1947

Nuno Luís Madureira


This paper addresses the configuration of relationships among firms, municipalities, and the central state in the first phase of evolution of the electricity network in Portugal (1920-1947). The context of backwardness in development, bipolar urbanization, technological compatibility between systems and market fragility (expressed in low per capita consumption), which marked the history of electricity distribution in Portugal, led to a situation in which the introduction of electricity networks reinforced the dissimilarity of regions and individuals in Portuguese society, accentuating the gap between the coastal and the inland regions, between north and south, between more urbanized districts and more rural districts. By confirming these differences, the implementation of networks had a discriminatory effect, increasing the distances in the positioning of consumers and non-consumers, increasing homogeneity within regions and heterogeneity between regions. Seen from this standpoint, by creating a wide gap and highlighting the differences in the social habits of populations, the implementation of the electricity network itself became a barrier to the subsequent spread of the use of electricity.