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Power Stations

Volume 892: debated on Monday 12 May 1975

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15.

asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will make a statement on the reduction of the power station ordering programme because of the Electricity Council's revised estimate of the likely maximum demand for electricity in 1981–82.

The CEGB's power station ordering programme is being urgently reviewed in the light of the Electricity Council's revised estimate of electricity demand in 1981–82 and other relevant considerations. I cannot anticipate the outcome of this review except to say that it will not affect the size or timing of the SGHWR programme.

Is my right hon. Friend in a position to say how much of this reduction in demand for electricity is due to economies in consumption and how much is due to a falling-off in industrial demand because of recession? Can he also say what the effect will be on employment in the heavy electrical plant manufacturing industry?

I am sorry, but I am not able to give any precise figures or information about the point raised by my hon. Friend concerning the level of economic activity and how this has affected the power station ordering programme. The answer to the second point is that we are examining carefully the extent to which plant manufacturers will be affected, but we are not yet in a position to give any detailed information about this.

Is not my right hon. Friend alarmed at the rundown in the amount of electricity being generated, especially when taking into account the fact that in the Midlands the power stations which have been closed temporarily are coal-fired, whereas oil-fired stations using costly oil are continuing to be used? Will he issue a directive to the effect that we should continue with coal-fired power stations and thereby reduce the costly import bill arising from the use of oil?

I am not aware that the CEGB is deliberately burning oil in preference to coal, but I shall look into the question raised by my hon. Friend. My information is that the CEGB is prepared to take, and can take and burn in existing coal-fired power stations, all the coal that is produced.