When Launceston built the Duck Reach Power Station in 1895, it focused Tasmanian minds on the state's potential for water power.
It was the first publicly-owned hydro scheme in the Southern Hemisphere.
In 1897 the great engineer Alfred Mault submitted two reports to parliament, suggesting a dam at the Great Lake and dynamos on the Shannon River.
Ten years later, in Melbourne, an inventor named James Gillies patented a process to take zinc concentrate from Broken Hill, and extract the zinc by electrolysis.
For this he needed a large supply of cheap power.
He came to Hobart in 1907 to talk to the Government, where he met Professor Alexander McAulay and farmer Harold Bisdee, who owned neighbouring properties on the Shannon River.
They told him about Mault's scheme, which McAulay had now refined and updated.
In 1908 Gillies floated a company and formally asked the Government to build a power plant at Waddamana, to supply his firm with cheap electricity.
Though Premier Jack Evans was interested, parliament refused. When Gillies said he might do it himself, however, he was given permission to undertake surveys.
When he decided to go for it, he enlisted the then ex-Premier, Captain Jack Evans, to present an enabling bill to parliament.
It took a herculean effort from Captain Evans, who fought for many months to get it passed as neither the Labor Party, nor the Upper House, wanted to give a private firm the use of a public asset - even though they didn't want to develop it themselves.
Finally the scheme got through, and on December 17, 1910, Mrs Ida McAulay turned the first sod for Gillies' Complex Ores Co hydro-electric scheme on land owned by her and the Professor.
Beset by dreadful weather and impassable roads, in late 1912 the company asked parliament for an extension of time to complete.
Labor blocked them, but was later overruled. At the same time there were problems with unions and engineering contractors.
Sadly, the problems made fundraising impossible, and in 1914 they ran out of money.
In a shrewd move, the Labor Government of Premier Earle took over the project at cost price. A sad and disillusioned Mr Gillies later left the state.
Despite the war, the Earle government completed the project in 1916, and a big crowd massed at City Hall on May 8 for the official switching on of lights, utilising power from the new Great Lake Hydro-Electric scheme.
In 1925 the great Labor Premier Joe Lyons tried to right the wrong, and twice had a bill passed by the Assembly, granting Gillies a modest pension in recognition of his services to the state.
Unfortunately, it was twice blocked by people with long memories in the Upper House.
The pension was finally granted in 1935, when Gillies was facing bankruptcy, but he didn't enjoy it long, dying in Melbourne in 1942.