A New Phase in Electricity

Date01 March 1958
Published date01 March 1958
DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9299.1958.tb01328.x
A
New Phase
in
Electricity
By D. G.
DODDS
The Head
of
the Industrial Relations Department
of
the Electricity Council
explains the changes in the structure
of
the electricity supply
industy.
"
The Organisation changes but the Industry goes vigorously
on."
ON
1st January, 1958, the provisions of the Electricity Act 1957 came into
operation and the Central Electricity Authority was replaced by two
new statutory corporations, the Electricity Council and the Central Electricity
Generating Board. Area Distribution Boards have been given rather more
extensive powers than before. The significance of these changes in the
statutory organisation of the Electricity Supply Industry can best be judged
against a background of the circumstances leading up to nationalisation in
1948 and an outline
of
the organisation prevailing until the end of 1957.
Background to Nationalisation
The nationalisation of Electricity Supply
on
1st April, 1948 was not merely
the expression of a political concept.
It
was the culmination of economic and
technical trends in the Supply Industry which had been gathering momentum
since the Great War first exposed the weakness and waste of a system founded
upon small, independent units of production and distribution. Since that
time
it
had been widely recognised that economy in production and reliability
in supply could be secured only by a policy of promoting large-scale
generation, comprehensive transmission networks and wider areas
of
distribution.
Progress in the development of this policy, between the two wars, was
limited not by a failure to recognise its desirability but by acute differences
about the possible methods of its fulfilment. Parliament shrank from
proposals for the compulsory amalgamation of undertakings, through which
reasonably rapid developments could have been achieved, and introduced
measures which, it was hoped, would lead to amalgamation by persuasion
and consent.
Under the Electricity (Supply) Act 19 19, the Electricity Commissioners
were established for the purpose of promoting, regulating and supervising
the supply of electricity and of securing re-organisation by voluntary agree-
ment. The Commissioners exercised a considerable influence on the
progressive technical development of the industry but, in the sphere
of
reorganisation, were able to secure the establishment of only five Joint
Electricity Authorities with powers to promote regional schemes. The lack
of compulsory powers proved to be a serious impediment to further progress.
Technical developments too were making it clearer every day that the whole
country should be regarded as a unit for purposes
of
generation. The idea
of
even regional schemes had become outmoded.
Parliament accordingly enacted the Electricity (Supply) Act 1926 which
established the Central Electricity Board with the main duties
of
(a)
concentrating the output of electricity
in
a limited number of efficient
and economical generating stations, and
19

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