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Electricity was largely an intellectual matter until 1600, when electricity and magnetism were actually investigated at length by William Gilbert, who actually named this phenomenon after the amber rods he used in his investigations. Electricity remained largely an academic curiosity for many years, being studied by such illustrious scientists as Benjamin Franklin and Luigi Galvani. Electricity was harnessed for practical applications in 1821, when Michael Farraday fabricated the first electric motor. Throughout the mid to late 1800’s, Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla invented a plethora of electrical devices that wove electricity into the very fabric of daily life, and set the stage for the ubiquitous applications of electricity that we see today.
Until the 19th century, a power bill was absolutely unheard of world wide. This all changed with the invention of the first battery, what was then known as the ‘voltaic pile’. By arranging a series of voltaic cells, one was able to fashion a rudimentary battery that could supply a fair amount of power for the time. They still didn’t provide a feasible power source for sustained use, so further research continued, yielding the Daniell cell in 1836, which was actually able to sustain a telegraph network. By the end of the 19th century, the dry cell had been invented, and electricity was even being used to power portable devices. However, the primary source of electricity generation that would eventually be adopted was the Howard steam turbine, which was invented in 1884, and still accounts for as much as 80% of the world’s electricity supply.
At first, electricity seemed as though it were a simple novelty, and most consumers even in the late 19th century never thought that electricity would be used for much more than powering their street lamps and their telegraph offices because electricity prices were so exorbitantly high. As the steam turbine was phased into use, and electricity production became both significantly easier and much faster, the price fell, and soon electricity was finding its way into homes. After this point, the invention of electrical devices really began to take off and with them the electricity market. The late 20th century saw the privatisation of the electricity market in a number of countries, beginning with Chile. In 1990, Margaret Thatcher privatized the UK market, and this deregulation of the electricity market evolved into the trade system that we have today, wherein electricity is bought and sold just like any other commodity.