I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time. The principal purpose of the Bill is to raise the limit of advances to the Electricity Supply Board from the Exchequer by £22,000,000—from the present limit of £36,945,000 to a new limit of £58,945,000. It is estimated that that increase in the advances to the Electricity Supply Board will meet the board's requirements on capital account until 1955. Of the £22,000,000 additional capital provided for the board, approximately £12,500,000 will be spent upon increased generation capacity; £4,000,000 upon extensions of the transmission system: £4,000,000 on distribution; and the balance of £1,500,000 on general purposes and contingencies.
While that statement I have made is completely accurate, it is perhaps a rather over-simplification of the financial position of the board. As the House is, I think, aware, it has been the practice of the board to invest its own reserve funds in the undertaking, and in fact at the present time the board's total capital expenditure and commitments on capital account exceed the limits fixed by existing statutes and it is anticipated that by the end of March, 1955, its expenditure and commitments will exceed the limit now being fixed in this Bill. That is mainly explained by the fact that, in addition to the amounts advanced from the Exchequer, there will be a further investment of the board's own reserves, and also by reason of the fact that capital commitments run ahead of expenditure.
In preparing the new generating programme of the board for a period roughly ten years ahead regard had to be given to the board's estimates of the increases in demand for electricity that would occur annually during that period. The present programme now envisaged contemplates that the demand for current will double in the next five years and increase by as much again in the next following five years. It is anticipated that in the present year the board will supply slightly over 1,000,000,000 units. Their estimate is that the demand will reach 1,075,000,000 units. The production anticipated from the board's plant for the present year, that is to say the plant which is now working and some new generating sets which will come into operation during the year, is 1,140,000,000 units.
While that situation appears satisfactory and suggests that the supply of current this year will be ahead of the demand, if not very much ahead of it, it is necessary to qualify that statement in some regards. The estimated output of the board's stations is, of course, based upon certain expectations as to weather and other conditions this year. It is normally the practice of the board to calculate the output of electricity from any plant upon the basis of conditions in an average year. Assuming that this is an average year and that the demand for current is on the scale anticipated by the board, then there will be an adequate supply. But, if exceptional conditions of any kind operate either to increase the demand or to reduce the output of the stations, then some period of difficulty might exist. The position is that the demand for current has grown so rapidly that there is now no question of a stand-by plant and it does not look as if we can make provision for stand-by plant for a considerable number of years ahead.
I do not want to cause any alarm or to lead people to think that there will be any difficulty in securing electricity for any purpose during the present year. The board's calculations are as I have given, but I feel that it is reasonably certain that they have been prepared upon a conservative basis and that, subject to abnormal conditions affecting their productive capacity, they will be able to meet this year and the following year, and in fact if the programme we contemplate is fulfilled to date, in every year the demand for current which is anticipated.
In calculating the output for the present year allowance is made for the coming into operation during the course of the year of four additional generating sets on the Erne producing between them approximately 200,000,000 units of electricity and for the commencement of operation at the Allenwood turf-burning station——