HC Deb 23 November 1965 vol 721 cc226-7
16. Mr. Murray

asked the Minister of Power if he is satisfied about the security of electricity supply in the Gravesend and Northfleet area during the next six months; and if he will make a statement.

23. Mr. Rhodes

asked the Minister of Power if he is satisfied about the security of the electricity supply to consumers in the North Eastern Electricity Board area in meeting the additional demands upon it during the winter months; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Frederick Lee

The distribution systems of the North Eastern and the South Eastern Electricity Boards are generally adequate to meet expected demands this winter, although local difficulties cannot be excluded. But if national demand overloads the available generating capacity or the main transmission system, area electricity boards would be required to reduce load.

Mr. Murray

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply, but would he confirm that over the last year the capacity at the Northfleet power station was reduced by 100,000 kilowatts? Will he see that this position does not recur in the future?

Mr. Lee

I could not give the answer in regard to the specific amount that my hon. Friend mentions, but I can assure him that we are certainly doing everything possible, in conjunction with the industry, to ensure that adequate supplies are maintained. If the weather conditions make it inevitable that there should be cuts, I am afraid that this year they will take place.

Mr. Rhodes

As one knows that electricity generating plant takes about five years to manufacture—and I have a large manufacturing concern in my constituency—would my right hon. Friend tell me whether the present situation in the North-East is the result of under-estimation of the demand in the early 'sixties in the plans approved by the party opposite?

Mr. Lee

The Generating Board was basing itself this year on a plant margin of about 14 per cent. It is the case that if there is an under-estimate in, say, 1960, inevitably one will not meet the demand in 1965 in adverse conditions. It is also the case that in making its estimates, the Board has to take into account the outage of plant, the inaccuracy that can take place in load forecasting and in forecasting the weather. It is true that we have now reached a position this year on the basis of the 1960 forecasting, where we are 2,700 megawatts short.