HC Deb 05 July 1949 vol 466 cc148-50W
Mr. Viant

asked the Minister of Labour if he will make a statement about arrangements for spreading the industrial electricity load next winter.

Mr. Isaacs

This matter has been under careful consideration by the Electricity Sub-Committee of the National Joint Advisory Council. Although new generating plant is being brought into service as quickly as possible, demand continues to grow at such a rate as generally to offset this increased capacity, and it is clear that steps must again be taken in the coming winter to reduce the load on the power stations during the peak periods in the morning and evening. The risk would otherwise arise of cuts in the supply of electricity on a scale sufficient to cause serious interference with vital industrial production.

It is stressed in the Report of the Electricity Sub-Committee that the problems of industrial, commercial and domestic demand must be considered together in making plans to reduce peak loads. The Sub-Committee were, however, primarily concerned with the contribution which industry should be asked to make. They have recommended that the same general administrative arrangements which were so successful last winter should be made for the coming winter; that is to say, that arrangements on national lines should be made by the Regional Boards for Industry to cover the months of December, January and February, and that during the "fringe months" of October, November and March the Regional Boards should again be given discretion to make such arrangements as they consider appropriate in the light of regional circumstances.

As a result of the experience which has been gained and of the fuller knowledge of the incidence of the peak load, it has been found possible to recommend some easement in the contribution asked of industry. During December, January and February industry will be asked to cut its maximum peak demand on Mondays to Fridays inclusive by 20 per cent. during the hours of 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., but during the hours of 10 a.m. to 12 noon the reduction asked for will be only 10 per cent. From 1st December until 15th January a reduction of 20 per cent. will also be necessary between the hours of 4 p.m. to 5.30 p.m. on Mondays to Fridays inclusive. After that date the problem of the afternoon peak should be left to the discretion of the Regional Boards. To achieve the target reductions it will be necessary for the Regional Boards to ask some firms in appropriate cases to make an extra reduction in respect of their particular loads, but it is not intended that the general figure of 20 per cent. should be exceeded over large areas. As in the last winter the arrangements to achieve these aims should again be worked out by the Regional Boards for Industry and their Committees with the firms concerned. Copies of the Electricity Sub-Committee's Report have been placed in the Library.

The Government have accepted these recommendations and are asking the Regional Boards for Industry to make the necessary arrangements. They are confident that both sides of industry will once again show the same spirit of co-operation which has characterised these arrangements in the previous two winters, but as an assurance to the vast majority of public spirited employers and work-people that their efforts will not be rendered useless by any selfish minority, the Government have decided that statutory powers should continue to be available to deal with unreasonable failure to operate load spreading arrangements.

It is not enough to make these arrangements to reduce the consumption of electricity by industry during the peak periods: other classes of consumers must also make a contribution proportionate to their demand, and it has therefore been decided that as in last winter commercial consumers, including shops, offices, warehouses, hotels and cinemas, should be brought within the scope of the arrangements made by the Regional Boards for Industry and that they should be required to reduce their consumption by the same amounts and during the same hours as industry. The Ministry of Fuel and Power and the British Electricity Authority with the Area Boards will also take appropriate steps to ensure that domestic consumers and small commercial consumers (too numerous to be approached individually) exercise the fullest economy in the use of electricity during the peak hours.