On 11 September 1911, electricity began to illuminate the streets and provide power to households and businesses in Akaroa. The electricity was generated in a small hydro-electric power station below L’Aube Hill.
The plant had been purchased second-hand from the United Kingdom. A penstock from a small reservoir above L’Aube Hill, supplied initially from the Balguerie Stream, fed water to a pelton wheel which drove a dynamo to provide a direct current supply. The pelton wheel, generator and a switchboard were housed in a small, square, brick building, with an attractive pavilion roof which flared to broad eaves.
A larger addition to the rear of the original powerhouse was built several years later to house a gas engine and workshop. The gas engine was needed because the flow of water was insufficient to generate an adequate supply in the summer months. Power from the Lake Coleridge power station in the Southern Alps reached Akaroa in June 1923, but the generating plant remained in supplementary use until the mid 1950s. The equipment was eventually sold to the Maruia Springs Hotel.
In 1970 local resident, Patricia Bosshard established a gallery and concert venue in the empty building. She organised concerts (and a film society there as well) from 1970. In 1977, an incorporated society took over the running of the Powerhouse as a gallery and concert venue.
Towards the end of the century, at Maruia Springs, the plant became redundant. It was returned to Akaroa by a group of local volunteers with the support of the Akaroa Civic Trust. A power company, Orion, provided financial support for the project. In 2003 the equipment was re-installed in the powerhouse in its original position but in its 1923 configuration.
The building now doubles as small museum of technology and as a gallery and concert venue.