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Electricity Privatisation

Volume 130: debated on Monday 28 March 1988

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To ask the Secretary of State for Energy what representations he has received from alternative energy interests about the White Paper on electricity privatisation.

Our proposal for a specified minimum proportion of non-fossil-fuelled generating capacity has been well received by those involved in the development of alternative energy sources. We hope that this will encourage new ideas in generation.

May I congratulate my hon. Friend on his commitment to non-fossil fuels, which is in accordance with the White Paper? What role does he see for renewable energy sources following privatisation?

There could be a good possibility that there will be a role for them. My hon. Friend will appreciate that that will be subject to further research and development taking place so that renewable energy sources can become competitive. The research and development programme is proceeding. This was demonstrated by an announcement by the CEGB and another by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State last week.


To ask the Secretary of State for Energy if, pursuant to his statement to the House on 7 March, Official Report, column 53, he will place in the Library the technical and scientific evidence upon which he based his conclusion that the grid control will have the same ability to deal with emergencies in electricity supply under the proposed privatisation as it does under the present arrangements.

No, Sir. This is an operational matter. The full range of powers to deal with emergencies will be available to those controlling the national grid under the proposed arrangements, as under the present ones. This will be built into the contract arrangements and the operating agreements.

Is the Secretary of State aware that a number of his hon. Friends, as well as a number of mine, went to CEGB Southwark, where we heard at length from Mr. Edgar McCarthy, the controller, about the Sundon incident 20 May 1986, when, if, within two minutes, post-fault urgent action had not been taken by those who had complete command of the grid London and the home counties would have been absolutely blacked out by system voltage collapse? Can the right hon. Gentleman assure Mr. McCarthy and others, on technical grounds, that their fears are groundless?

Yes. There will be no change in either the assets or the operation of the grid. What will change will be the ownership of the generating stations. The only basis for the assertion made to the hon. Gentleman is that under private ownership generating plants will not respond to orders from the national grid. As I have explained to him, it will be built into their contracts that in an emergency the national grid will have the right to override any other agreements. Therefore, the same assets will be available to the grid controllers, who will be able to give the same instructions in an emergency as in 1986.