HC Deb 15 December 1969 vol 793 cc229-30W
Sir J. Eden

asked the Minister of Technology what investigations he is making into the causes of failure of a number of electricity generating sets; and if he will make a statement about the availability of power supplies for the remainder of this winter.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

asked the Minister of Technology whether he will cause an investigation to be made to ascertain why, within a few days of the first cold spell of winter, power cuts were instituted by the electricity authorities; and whether he will make a statement.

Mr. Benn

The maximum output capacity of C.E.G.B. using all existing plant is now about 45,500 MW and the highest demand on the system this winter has been around 36,000 MW. By the beginning of next year, the Board expects capacity to approach 47,000 MW and forecasts the maximum demand in January and February in average cold spell conditions as about 39,000 MW. The gross margin of capacity on this basis should normally be sufficient to assure supplies in average winter weather.

However, there is at present an abnormal level of plant breakdowns, particularly among the new 500 MW units. The Board expect and allow for some initial difficulties in bringing high pressure plant into operation, but when, as has happened, an unexpectedly large number of sets are simultaneously affected the system is strained. Recent difficulties have been contained by voltage reduc- tions and there have been no disconnections.

I do not think an investigation would help since the C.E.G.B. and the manufacturers are working hard to overcome the present difficulties.