HC Deb 03 November 1980 vol 991 cc941-2
7. Mr. Hooley

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what excess of electricity generating capacity is likely to arise in 1983 if the forecast by the Electricity Council of a simultaneous maximum demand of 46.2 GW for 1982–83 proves correct.

Mr. Norman Lamont

I am advised by the CEGB that it expects the declared net capability of the system in the winter of 1982–83 to be 59.6 GW, resulting in a margin of capacity of 29 per cent. This figure is, however, dependent on the rate of commissioning new plant and decommissioning old plant in the meantime.

Mr. Hooley

As we already have about 10 GW more in the pipeline than is currently on stream, and as this will produce over and above what the Minister has said will be excess capacity, what is the point of a huge nuclear programme to produce electricity which, clearly, will not be required?

Mr. Lamont

The hon. Member has heard the questions that have already been put at Question Time today about energy costs. The point of placing new orders for new plant is to get competitive electricity. All the evidence that we have is that nuclear electricity will be competitive, and that is why we wish to replace old expensive plants with cheaper modern nuclear ones.

Mr. Watson

Does my hon. Friend believe that the 28 per cent. planning margin, as used by the CEGB, is realistic? Does he not think that it might lead us to invest too much in electricity generating plant capacity?

Mr. Lamont

This is the industry's judgment of what is required to guarantee security of supply. My hon. Friend will know that during the winter before last we came within 1 GW of an interruption to supply. When my hon. Friend quotes 28 per cent., he should allow for the outages of plant due to malfunctioning. The estimate is that we could come within 3 per cent. at peak periods.

Mr. Ashton

If there is 29 per cent. excess capacity, and if modern nuclear power stations are to replace the old ones, how many pit closures will there be in 1982–83?

Mr. Lamont

I do not think that arises out of the question.