Who We Are

PenLight’s History

  • Founded in July 1925 as a member-owned cooperative.
  • Membership available to PenLight territory residents upon paying a $100 membership fee.
  • First energized by Tacoma City Light’s supply in December 1926.
  • Serving over 30,000 member homes and businesses.
  • Coverage spans 112 square miles encompassing Gig Harbor, Key Peninsulas, and Fox Island.
  • Full requirements utility of Bonneville Power Administration (BPA).
  • Utilizes BPA and Tacoma transmission for power distribution.
  • Provides water services to more than 3,000 members


July 14, 1924

PLC was issued its first commercial license to operate. The license was issued by Secretary of State Grant Hinckle, paid for by Earl Knapp.

July 13, 1925

The first Articles of Incorporation were adopted. They were drafted by Homer T. Bone, a Tacoma attorney who was an early leader of public power in the Northwest.

The Board held meetings everywhere: Empress Theater, Peninsula Hotel, Washington Egg and Poultry Association, Old Schoolhouse, Home and Philip Peyran’s house.

In August 1925

Board approved purchase of a binder for the meeting minutes “… if the price was reasonable”.


Penlight moved into the Eve-Glo Building.
Fox Island Light Company proposes to be served by PLC; raises funds for underwater line; PLC guarantees service if 100 memberships can be obtained.

December 7, 1925

The first annual meeting was held.

December 14, 1929

Peninsula Light Company was officially energized with power supplied by Tacoma City Light, but operation apparently ceased when funds ran out. Board members began membership drives and personally collected the memberships: cash and notes and transformer bills. They had a difficult time.

March 1927

55 miles of line were up.

December of 1927

74 miles of line served 457 members.



Fox Island is service completed. Because of the Depression, moves are made to cut salaries of employees. Mr. Hughes volunteers to cut his salary to $125; linemen to $5 per day. Hiring restricted but if absolutely necessary, and married men were to be given preference.


192 miles of line served 878 members . McNeil Island service completed. A new 1.5 ton Ford pickup truck is purchased in 1932 for $575 (from Uddenberg’s).


A.R. Hunt comes to terms to sell property and Eve-Glo building on Harborview to PenLight for $15,000.


July 4, 1940

First Narrows Bridge (Galloping Gurtie) opens.

November 7, 1940

Galloping Gurtie bridge collapses.



Move into “new” PenLight building on Harborview Drive.


August 1970

Membership reaches 5,114 members


Membership grows to 8,000 members.

December 20, 1976

December 20, 1976—A court decision known as the Otter Tail ruling allowed PLC to use Tacoma’s transmission system to switch to its first federal electricity from BPA.



PenLight moves into a modern new headquarters building on Goodnough Drive. The building wins a design award from the local Chamber of Commerce.

PLC – Pioneers of the Peninsula (Long) Video

Pioneers of the Peninsula (Short) Video

It was a land of berry bushes, tall timber, chicken ranches and fishing boats. Accessible only by water and populated only by a hardy sort, the Peninsula area during the early 1900s… As a frontier made the slow transition to civilization, the progressive among this land realized they could not afford to be left out of industry’s evolution toward electrical power. . . . Soon it became obvious that no outside agency was going to provide an electrical utility in the Peninsula area… A handful of local residents realized that if they were to ever see lights in their chicken sheds and their homes, they would have to make it happen themselves. . .

“You couldn’t get any money from Wall Street. They thought it was all Indians out here,” said Oak Lodholm, General Manager of Peninsula Light from the 1930s to 1973. Read more by downloading Pioneering a Power System (PDF), written in September 1988.

“They had already paid for wiring the house and putting in the switches and lamp fixtures,” said their daughter, Jane Karlson. “Some of the fixtures in the bedrooms were just wires coming down from the ceiling with light bulbs on the end. Miraculously, on Christmas Eve, 1925, our house lights came on. The Christmas spirit must have come to the board members. Knowing and trusting memberships would eventually be paid by local families, the lights were turned on to give us all a glorious Christmas.”

~Jane Shaw Karlson

Read more about this and other personal stories about Joe and Laura Hoots, Betsy and Chuck Allen, Jane Shaw Karlson, Paul and Helen Alvestad, Leroy Challender, Melvin and Jane Etta Cady, and Donald and Shirley Olson by downloading PenLight Pioneers Reminisce.

Certificate Of Membership No. 1 – Fred S. Smythe
1St Headquarters, The Eve-Glo Bldg, 1925 To 1964
Open House For Harborview Bldg., 1964 To1986

The 7 Cooperative Principles

  • Over 29,000 co-ops are in operation in the U.S., serving approximately 350 million members.
  • With more than 900 electric co-ops, they manage nearly half of the electric distribution lines across the country.
  • These lines encompass ¾ of the U.S. land area and offer power to over 40 million individuals.

Like all co-ops, Peninsula Light Company operates under these 7 cooperative principles: