Committee on Finance. - Electricity Supply (Amendment) Bill, 1951—Money Resolution.

I move:—

That for the purpose of any Act of the present Session to authorise increases in the total amounts which may be advanced for the general purposes of the Electricity Supply Board and for the electrification of rural areas, to provide for the increase of certain pensions payable under the Electricity (Supply) Acts, 1927 to 1949, to amend the said Acts in certain respects, to provide for age limits for offices held by certain persons transferred to the service of the board, and to provide for other matters connected with the matters aforesaid, it is expedient to authorise—

(a) the advance to the Electricity Supply Board out of the Central Fund or the growing produce thereof of sums not exceeding in the aggregate £22,000,000 for general purposes;

(b) the advance to the Electricity Supply Board out of the Central Fund or the growing produce thereof of sums not exceeding in the aggregate £3,000,000 for the electrification of rural areas.

Perhaps the Minister could dispose of a point which I should like to raise now on the Money Resolution. There is a very substantial amount of money being provided here for the development up to, I think, 1956. There is one point which, in my opinion, ought to be a little more fully reviewed because of its impact on the cost of electricity development. I understood from the Minister's statement on the Second Reading of the Bill that he will be introducing a Bill dealing with turf development very shortly. I think that the matter could, perhaps, be more profitably and effectively discussed on that Bill, but at column 419 of his statement on the Second Reading of this Bill the Minister stated that:—

"The Deputy may take it that all the plans for additional turf burning stations have been prepared in full agreement with Bord na Móna and they have committed themselves to completing their development in each area in time to ensure the delivery to the Electricity Supply Board of the full quantity of turf necessary to achieve these outputs I am quoting."

The Minister will be aware that there has been a very considerable amount of dissatisfaction in the synchronising of the turf development plan which the Electricity Supply Board is depending on for some of its stations such as the Portarlington station and that the lag in the development in the turf supply on the one hand, and the costs of production on the other, have been a very great source of concern to the Electricity Supply Board. The Minister will have examined the figures that have been quoted as the anticipated cost of turf production, say, in the Portarlington station. In 1946, the cost was 20/- and 25/- a ton. Actually, in 1948 it was 38/- and in 1949 39/6. In 1950—whether an agreement has been come to or not yet I do not know—I understand the cost of turf was 46/5 a ton, and that there was considerable difficulty with regard to the moisture content of the turf.

As to the proposal with regard to the use of milled peat, a number of questions have been asked here in the House as to whether expert technicians of various kinds are fully satisfied with the proposals for the use of milled peat. We have had a certain amount of experience in the past of the development not coming up, in the matter of time and quantity, to expectations, with, on the one hand, the moisture content being difficult, and on the other with the cost being very substantially in excess of what was anticipated. It would appear that past experience in that respect has not been altogether overcome to the satisfaction either of the management or of the engineering side. Can the Minister give us any more information as to what steps are being taken to harmonise, and make more effective, agreement between the technicians on the turf producing side and those on the electricity producing side, and say whether there are matters which are still unsatisfactory from his point of view or from the point of view of anybody?

In view of the fact that such substantial amounts of money are being provided for this development—and if things are still unsatisfactory with regard to a mutual understanding and mutual agreement—will he undertake to have them examined in such a way that, by the time he comes to deal with the Bill for the further development by Bord na Móna, he will be able to satisfy the House that things are clear and are better understood as between all the technicians in the matter? I say that because there has been a loss of money and a loss of effort in the past. If we are now branching out on this very substantial development and are making available a very appreciable amount of money for expenditure during the next four years, it is desirable that we should all be satisfied that, on the technical side of things, there was the fullest possible understanding and agreement.

With regard to turf to be consumed at Portarlington, the Minister, in estimating the total cost of turf, gave a price of £2 1s. Od. per ton. Did he take into consideration, in estimating the cost of all the turf required to operate Portarlington, the fact that up to 50 wagons of turf per week have been drawn to the Portarlington station from places in the West of Ireland over the past three months, and that every sod of that turf was carried by road four miles from the bog to the railhead? I do not know how many centres in the West of Ireland were providing turf on that scale for transport to Portarlington—I have personal knowledge of only one—but I am perfectly certain that the delivery price at Portarlington of that turf was substantially in excess of £2 1s. Od.

I think the Minister ought to be able to tell us what percentage of the total quantity of turf to be consumed at Portarlington is being drawn to the station from places other than the immediately adjacent bog and, in respect of the turf drawn from other places, what it is costing on the average, including freight charges from the bog to the railhead and from the railhead to Portarlington, and whether the cost of such turf is taken into consideration in forecasting the average cost of turf fuel at the station at £2 1s. Od. per ton, or whatever was the last figure mentioned by the Minister as being, in his judgment, the figure at which turf was a cheaper fuel from which to generate electricity than coal or oil. He said that after mature reflection very deliberately in this House. It is an interesting declaration and I think he should clarify it in respect of one facet which I have mentioned.

From time to time, it has been advocated that workers' representatives be appointed on the management committees or boards of semi-State bodies. Recently, our Party had occasion to make representations asking that representation be given to workers on these semi-State bodies and the Minister replied that he was sympathetically disposed towards it. I wonder if he could give the House an assurance that, so far as this Bill is concerned, in the appointment of the board workers' representatives will be included.

The appointment of the board does not arise on the Bill and therefore does not arise on the Money Resolution.

I rather imagine it does.

I thought we were discussing——

We are discussing an amending Bill and the appointment of the board does not arise.

Then the amendments are out of order?

All the amendments have been ruled out of order.

I have made no changes in the membership of the Electricity Supply Board and it will be interesting to see if the Labour Party have more influence with me in regard to its membership than they had with the Coalition. I want to say to Deputy Mulcahy that his source of information concerning the Portarlington station appears to be a slightly prejudiced one. The position was not as described by him. He will recollect that that station was planned upon a basis which involved Bord na Móna in the obligation to deliver 120,000 tons of turf per year and Bord na Móna made its plans for the development of the bog on that basis.

The Electricity Supply Board constructed the station, and, when it was completed, found that it was of a larger capacity than was originally intended and that it was possible for it to use that station to produce more electricity than had been assumed and that consequently a greater annual consumption of turf was involved. The situation, therefore, in which Bord na Móna found itself when the capacity of the station was realised was that it had to undertake the delivery to the Electricity Supply Board for that station of a substantially larger quantity of turf than the quantity for the production of which Clonsast bog was developed. I think it can do that, either by an extension of activities at Clonsast or by linking in with Portarlington station other bogs in the vicinity which it is developing.

Would the Minister put a figure on the extra quantity required?

The quantity now required is, I think, about 160,000 or 165,000 tons per year. Last year, however, a rather special situation arose. It will be remembered that there was a strike of Bord na Móna workers about this time last year, during which the stockpile of turf at Portarlington was run out. I instructed Bord na Móna and the Electricity Supply Board to replenish that stockpile, even though it meant bringing in by road supplies of turf from outlying areas at a higher cost than locally produced turf.

That was partly a precaution against some exceptional situation arising this winter and partially due to the knowledge that with the extended demand upon local turf supplies for the running of the station it would be difficult to build up the stockpile except by bringing in supplies from outside areas. The Deputy's information about turf cost to the Electricity Supply Board at Portarlington must, I think, be based on some assumptions of which I am not aware. Bord na Móna's published report gives the all-in cost of turf produced at Clonsast at 40/6 a ton. Undoubtedly, if the cost of the turf that was brought in by road from outlying areas were taken into account and an average figure struck, the cost of turf to the Electricity Supply Board at Portarlington last year would be higher; but in so far as the economics of the whole project are bound up with the cost of producing turf there, the cost on which decisions must be based is 40/6 per ton.

As I explained to the House, the average cost of all the turf produced by Bord na Móna last year was higher, but that was partially due to the fact that the average was influenced by the cost of producing turf at bogs which are not yet fully developed and where the incidence of the capital charges per ton is consequently higher than it will ultimately be.

May I ask the Minister does he think it satisfactory that the Electricity Supply Board should take five years to plan a station and that they should not be able to estimate its maximum output before they built it?

I do not know the exact answer to that question. I should say, first of all, that there is a certain conservatism in estimating the output of a station and secondly, in this case at least, the answer is that the very enthusiastic engineers of the Electricity Supply Board who were straining themselves to justify a peat-fired generating station at Portarlington did, in fact, surprise the headquarters of the Electricity Supply Board by the results they were able to achieve there.

Are the tonnage figures the Minister has given the tonnage of hand-won or machine-won turf? It makes a lot of difference in the calorific value.

The 120,000 tons stepped up to 165,000 tons are locally produced machine turf.

The Minister said the increased consumption of fuel was 40,000 tons—rising from 120,000 to 160,000. Could he say what original output of electricity was expected and also what the increased supply was as a result of the 40,000 extra tons?

I have not that at hand but I will try to get it for the Deputy.

It is a significant point.

Yes. There was a substantial increase in the output of electricity.

The Minister realises that it makes a queer kind of story that the Electricity Supply Board estimated to the Government a station with an output of 100, say, and it finally turns up that, the calculations and preparations having been made on that basis, the station has an output of 130?

The Deputy will understand that the generating sets installed at the station are provided by manufacturers outside the country, who themselves state what the performance of these sets will be and it is to be assumed that reputable manufacturers will also tend to underestimate the performance of their equipment. Bord na Móna was under contract to deliver 120,000 tons of peat per year and during the course of the year the Electricity Supply Board came to them and said: "We now want and can use 160,000 to 165,000 tons"—and the board is endeavouring to supply that.

At a recent conference in my Department, agreement on the utilisation of milled peat was reached by everybody concerned. The Electricity Supply Board have now got to make a choice between certain types of furnace equipment which have been suggested as suitable for the burning of milled peat, with a view to getting the most suitable type of equipment. They are in process of making that choice now and to enable them to arrive at the right answer they have in mind the erection of a pilot plant at Allenwood. Whether, in fact, the erection of a pilot plant will be necessary is still an open question. If the Electricity Supply Board think that is a necessary precaution to enable them to ensure that they will build later stations of maximum efficiency, I will have no objection.

Could the Minister say if the E.C.A. technical mission which reported in favour of milled peat had practical experience of the use of milled peat?

No, naturally not; but they have arranged for large-scale tests of milled peat at various stations in America and these tests will proceed this year. That will assist the Electricity Supply Board to decide the most suitable type of equipment.

It is a fact, then, that the decision to use milled peat was not taken on tests actually carried out by the E.C.A.?

They had available to them information concerning equipment designed to burn somewhat comparable types of fuel. They had literature concerning the developments in Russia where milled peat is used but had no opportunity of inspecting the work done there. We are able to say, however, that various boiler-makers who had been contacted were willing to guarantee the performance of their boilers with milled peat.

As I understand it, milled peat has been used in Germany and Russia but it is a different type of peat from the peat here. Is it not taking a chance on a major decision in the absence of an actual test made on similar peat?

In a sense that is so, but where the investigation of the matter has brought it now there is agreement that this is a practicable course. The only question left now is as to the most suitable type of equipment. This question arises in connection with every type of fuel, not merely milled peat.

So far, milled peat when won from the bog here has been used for further processing into briquettes and this is the first time it will be used for electricity generating. It is quite true that there is a considerable difference between turf as we know it here and turf as it is known in Europe, as quite a considerable amount of what they describe as turf there is almost lignite. Is it proposed in this sense to use milled peat as it comes milled from the bog without any further processing or is it to undergo processing into blocks?

There will be no briquetting or blocking. It will be sent into the furnaces as it arrives.

As milled peat from the bogs?

But before that the pilot plant will be working in Allenwood to test the experiment?

I have said that the Electricity Supply Board are considering whether it will be desirable to do so. They may or may not proceed with the pilot plant idea. If they want to go ahead with it, I have indicated that I am in agreement.

Do I understand the Minister to say that the milled peat is going to be milled on the same basis as Lullymore at present mills for the Ticknevin briquette factory?

It is exactly the same process.

Is the machinery, to be installed in the actual factory or generating station, going to follow the same lines as the Ticknevin machinery?

The same lines as Ticknevin up to the moment of pressurising?

Yes, there will be no briquetting at all.

Is the Minister quite certain about that? Is he satisfied that the machinery is satisfactory?

I am not quite sure that I have got the Deputy's point. The peat will be delivered off the bog by Bord na Móna to the Electricity Supply Board in the form in which it now arrives at the briquette factory, that is, in milled form.

What percentage of moisture?

55 per cent. It burns best at 55, I understand, which is one of the advantages.

Where it is delivered in milled form as it is at present, it is dried in the briquette factory before being pressurised. I take it it is not going to be dried in the new generating station?

It is in the drying that the trouble has arisen in Ticknevin.

I understand that the milled peat question arises principally in Bangor Erris.

No, I said all these additional turf stations will be based on milled peat.

As a matter of extreme urgency, I want to impress on the Minister one point. My attention has been drawn to the fact that in the Bangor Erris area, due to Press reports and ministerial propaganda, they were expecting work to begin at an early date in that area.

As the people in the Bangor Erris areas are poor, uneconomic holders, they are now forced to migrate, due to the fact that there is only a limited number employed at present on drainage work. I wonder could the Minister make an authoritative statement as to how many people would be employed on turf production in Bangor Erris so that they could make up their minds whether or not it will be necessary for them to migrate?

I will ask Bord na Móna to consider whether they could do that.

My attention has been drawn to the fact by Senator James Kilroy.

I think it should be possible for Bord na Móna to estimate and to make known the number of workers they will require this year. The number will, of course, increase year after year as the bog is developed.

Could the Minister give a rough estimate of how many?

I could not give it now, but I will ask Bord na Móna.

Will the people be employed on drainage work or on turf production, and, if on turf production, on what date approximately?

The first stage in the development of a bog is mainly drainage and the removal of growing matter on top of the turf. I cannot say at what stage milled peat will be actually produced. There will be a gradual development of production to the point at which they will have an annual output equivalent to the needs of the power station. This will develop in two stages and some milled peat from Bangor Erris will be used to fire boilers for the proposed grass meal factory before the power station is built.

Peat is so important in the economy of the country that I feel the Minister ought to help us more to realise the technical aspects of the uses to which it is being put The members of the Oireachtas are entitled to a certain amount of information on the technical side of its use. I feel the time has now come, particularly that we have this new development and with further legislation on the way to develop Bord na Móna, when some of the technical information with regard to the uses of turf should be put together and made available in a White Paper for the use of members of the Oireachtas. I do not want to go back over the past except to point to some of the matters which happened then and to say that they should quicken our sizing up of the situation. The Minister referred further to the fact that my information must come from prejudiced sources. With regard to Portarlington, the Minister has indicated that the difficulty is that the generating capacity developed at an unexpectedly rapid rate. I am talking of the turf production and where would the Minister say the prejudice comes in the sources that have provided us with figures such as these. Take Clonsast. It was officially estimated that, say, from 1943 on, after Clonsast had been worked for quite a number of years, the annual production would be 150,000 tons and that that would be the annual production during each of the years 1944, 1945, 1946 and 1947. However, the annual production never came near that.

Not in those years, because equipment could not be procured.

I am talking about the lack of synchronisation on the technical side. I do not know whether it was lack of equipment or lack of proper technique which was responsible for that. A definite estimate was put before the House and it was said that a certain amount of turf would be produced. However, instead of 150,000 tons being produced every year only 107,000 tons were produced in the year 1949. It is quite obvious that there has been a lack of dovetailing of plans in the past, and I would ask the Minister does he not now think that the House has to be more satisfied with regard to the complete agreement in matters of detail, of synchronisation of work and of the accuracy of the estimates that have been made both in regard to cost and in regard to production. I suggest to him that between now and the time he introduces his measure for the development of Bord na Móna, the House should be given more persuasive information on the matter of production and on the uses of the money allocated than we are getting at the moment. Particularly now that the question of the technical use of turf has been raised in a pointed way with reference to the use of milled peat, I feel that some kind of literature should be issued from the Ministry on the technical side on the use of turf.

I would like to say that it is obviously essential that there should be complete harmony between the Electricity Supply Board and Bord na Móna. The Electricity Supply Board was, in a sense, faced with a new problem with the decision to utilise peat because they now have to carry out their plans in conformity with Bord na Móna's plans. A turf-burning steam station is obviously a different proposition from a coal steam station. In the case of the turf-fired stations, the development of the station must proceed side by side with plans for the development of the turf production designed to feed the station. I have already taken some steps to ensure that the elements of friction that may have arisen in that regard are eliminated and that there will be that necessary co-operation of planning by both bodies.

The Minister does understand that the turf side of matters, being in a more experimental stage than electricity generating, is of vital importance. The Minister should see that the turf side of things is made as clear as possible so that friction and misunderstanding are avoided. Particularly now that large sums of money are being voted for turf production their full economic use should be assured.

If any Deputy is interested in this milled peat process and would like to visit Lullymore, I would be glad to furnish him with an opportunity of doing so later in the year when operations are in full swing.

I am a firm believer in the use of turf for electricity generating, especially since the experiment at Portarlington has established the suitability of turf cut in sod form for the firing of such stations. We are now being introduced to a new process, that is the use of milled peat for firing similar stations. So far we have had no experience of that method for the firing of electricity stations in this country. I am anxious that a miscarriage of plans should not create revulsion in the public mind against the possibility of firing electricity stations by turf produced in any form.

Perhaps I may have misled the House to some extent. There is no doubt about the combustibility of milled peat. There is no doubt that a boiler could be established and furnaces designed to use it. The only question that will have to be answered is will it give the maximum of efficiency.

That may be so. I can understand it being so in respect of boiler plants. When one knows the degree of heat that may be generated to produce 200,000 kilowatts, one may be in an entirely different field. The Minister and I could go to the bog. I could come home with turf that could light a fire and the Minister might bring home turf that would not light a fire. The success of this whole scheme depends on the quality of turf produced, its moisture content and its suitability for the work generally.

I would like to know if the Electricity Supply Board are satisfied from what they have seen elsewhere that this scheme has all the ingredients of practical success and that the recommendation is not merely from those who are interested in selling boilers. I would also like to know what certificates they are prepared to give?

The Electricity Supply Board engineers have now accepted the practicability of this scheme fully.

As a result of actual observation of electricity generation elsewhere?

Yes. They have gone to Germany, America and other places where this equipment is in use but there are further tests to be carried out to decide the most suitable type of equipment, tests with milled peat.

Are these tests in respect of generating electricity or tests in respect of burning milled peat in a boiler?

Burning milled peat in a furnace for the purpose of ascertaining the type of furnace that will give the highest efficiency.

Did they see any electricity generating stations actually working on milled peat?

For an hour, perhaps, in the sense that a number of tons are to be sent to these stations to be burned there, under observation for a period of time.

I do not want to put difficulties in the way of the scheme. I am in favour of every possible utilisation of turf but I think we are on the threshold of a very important decision which could make or mar the success of turf generating stations. If we fail in these experiments, it could produce a complete change in public opinion. For that reason I think there ought to be a very cautious approach to the problem of utilising milled peat, particularly when there is guaranteed success by producing sod turf and utilising it for electricity generation.

May I make this modest observation and I cannot imagine but that it must appeal to the Minister's sense of reason? The motion before the House now is to approve the expenditure of £25,000,000 sterling on electricity development. The Minister, I think, has marshalled general goodwill in principle behind that proposed output. The only apprehension I would have is that the particular method of developing electricity may fail in its purpose. Everyone wants the light on the best method, and if there be a best method associated with the user of turf, to alight on that method.

Would it be reasonable to suggest that at some stage of this legislation a Committee of this House, either on the Committee Stage or the Report Stage, would be afforded an opportunity of hearing experts of Bord na Móna and of the Electricity Supply Board; in other words, that technicians might be at the disposal of a select committee representative of the House at some stage of our consideration of this Development Bill?

I think that would be a most undesirable precedent to adopt. No Committee of this House is competent to decide these highly technical questions. The Deputy will have to take my word for it that the Electricity Supply Board say that if they get milled peat they can burn it and Bord na Móna say they can deliver the necessary supplies.

Not giving the Minister a short answer, that puts the issue: "Let the House take it or leave it."

As far as I am concerned, I am not purporting to give a technical decision. I am relying on the advice of those who are competent to give it.

Does that imply that members of the House have no technical knowledge at their disposal at all?

I certainly would not like to see policy in this matter being determined on technical grounds by members of the House.

The Minister will appreciate that in a country like Sweden people give in a casual kind of way quite a lot of ordinary technical details of nearly every aspect of its technical life that can be fairly well grasped by any person with any kind of general education. In their parliamentary system, their Deputies in the House are able to sit down with the Government side and the official side and examine questions because their system is based on that way. I do not think that the average member of the House here is in any way less educationally equipped to sit down in committee and talk and appreciate these things than, say, his prototype in Sweden. So I do not think the Minister should give us a flat "no" as a point of principle.

If it were not outside the scope of this Bill I would suggest that some kind of parliamentary committee would be established as a kind of pre-audit machinery for such a large amount of money as this when there are so many technical aspects. However, I feel it would be outside the scope of the Bill and would not be in accordance with our general technique here. But we have at the present moment a Committee of the House sitting on a Defence Bill and I feel it would not be at all inappropriate if members of the general headquarters staff or various officers of the Army gave evidence of one kind or another before that Committee.

That is dealing with legislation and legislation is our business.

It will not be done, I know, but it would not be a bad system.

The Minister is going to allow permanent officials to give evidence?

I was not aware of that.

I repeat my suggestion that we organise a party and go to Lullymore with the officials concerned to discuss technical aspects of this problem on the spot. I think it would be a good idea.

That is a different thing from what I think Deputy Dillon and myself have in mind but I would ask the Minister not to wipe out this House completely as a group of people that cannot understand the different aspects of technical things put in front of them.

I am quite sure they could understand them much better than I could.

I want to impress upon the Minister the importance of the development of hand-won turf in Mayo, both north and south.

Might I suggest that the Deputy keep this speech for the Turf Bill which will come along later?

I merely want to make a brief reference to this. In Mayo, there is a lot of bog held by the Land Commission and if this bog were divided among tenants, giving them an acre or two each, that would facilitate the hand-won turf scheme. I think that is a matter the Minister should take up with the Land Commission at this stage. He will recall that during the emergency our county was one of the biggest, if not the biggest, engaged in hand-won turf production.

Has the Minister considered the possibility of utilising some of our coal for the purpose of generating electricity? I asked his predecessor, Deputy Morrissey, whether he would consider the feasibility of erecting a power station at Arigna and utilising the coal deposits there in order to generate electricity. The reply I got at the time was that the Electricity Supply Board had the matter under consideration.

I do not want to pop this question suddenly to the Minister but I think if the Electricity Supply Board carefully considers the suggestion it will find that there are sufficient coal deposits available there to keep a power station going for as long as any station can be kept going in other areas by the use of turf. The Minister has himself pulled me up on occasions in connection with the amount of coal available in Arigna. I am afraid his figures and mine do not agree. According to my source of information, and I believe it is a fairly good one, there are considerable reserves of coal in that locality. There are a number of areas in which there are coal deposits but no real effort is being made to expand the industry. I think there are two main reasons for this lack of expansion: firstly, lack of suitable means of transport to and from the locality and, secondly, lack of money to develop the area properly.

I am sure Deputies are well aware of the fact that Arigna coal was used to a far greater extent at one time than it is to-day. It has earned a bad name in recent years with certain owners because sufficient care has not been taken by those responsible for mining it to ensure that only the best article was put on the market.

I believe the solution to this problem of Arigna coal production is for the Electricity Supply Board to acquire the mining rights on payment of reasonable compensation and then utilise the deposits there for the purpose of a generating station. Apart from that I am convinced that under the coal deposits there are unlimited deposits of iron ore. Several experts who have visited that locality have stated that there is an unlimited supply of iron ore 200 feet below the third coal seam. I do not propose to discuss this matter extensively now but, if the Minister has the information available, I want him to let us know whether the Electricity Supply Board has reached a decision to utilise the Arigna coalfields for the purpose of generating electricity.

I have one submission to make. The Electricity Supply Board is at the present time and will continue to be one of the largest consumers of turf. Would it be possible for the Electricity Supply Board to acquire surplus turf left on the producers hands? Yesterday the Minister was asked if he would give an assurance to private producers that if they produced the maximum they would be sure of a market. It is desirable in the national interest that the maximum amount should be produced by private producers. In the event of there being a surplus I think the Electricity Supply Board, as a very large consumer of turf, should be prepared to take it over in so far as sod turf is being used for electricity generation.

I am glad that the point about the feasibility of having a generating station at Arigna has been raised. The matter was brought up before, as the Deputy said, and there were certain discussions at the time. I gathered then that the Electricity Supply Board were having the possibilities examined. I do not know whether or not it would be an economic proposition but I think it is the only hope of any future prospect for the Arigna coalfield. When other fuel is available anyway freely it is very difficult, if not impossible, to sell Arigna coal outside a certain small area or on any sort of decent scale. Until the matter has been examined fully by those qualified to determine and decide whether or not it would be an economic proposition—and I am not speaking now of economics purely from the point of view of the Electricity Supply Board but from the national point of view taking all the factors into consideration—it should not be determined that the project is not a feasible one until we have evidence that will convince even the Deputy who represents that area.

All Parties, so far as I am aware, are in favour of producing our maximum electricity requirements from turf. The utilisation of our turf resources for the generating of electricity ought not to be regarded as a relief scheme. It is not a relief scheme. We, like the Government before us, did not look upon it as a stop-gap or something to provide employment.

It has been said that turf is a most costly form of electricity generation. I do not subscribe to that view. Ton for ton at a particular time it may cost more than oil or coke but there is more than the mere cutting, saving and burning of turf to be taken into consideration. The reclaimed land and its value to the State is a major consideration in calculating the cost to the State as distinct from the cost to the Electricity Supply Board. In passing, may I say to Deputy Cogan that the Electricity Supply Board, operating as it does at the moment under statute, could not do what he suggests in relation to surplus turf? One of the things we are inclined to forget, apart altogether from outside, is that the Electricity Supply Board has to operate on a commercial basis and has to make ends meet. Not only has it to make ends meet but it has to make good on its charges with 5 per cent. in addition to the State. If it were necessary, in order fully to develop and exploit our own resources, to give some liberty in relation to the cost to the Electricity Supply Board to take them out of the straitjacket which the statute puts on them at the moment I think that is something that might be considered.

With regard to the question of milled peat—I am sorry I was not here in time to hear him—the Minister went a little further or, perhaps, conveyed more to the House in relation to that particular project than he meant to on the Second Reading. I do not think the experiment—it is not yet out of the experimental stage—enables us to be in any way emphatic as to the future of milled peat. I am not to be misrepresented there nor do I want it to be in any way thought that I am questioning the work at the moment. Certainly, I should like to give it every possible encouragement because, if we can produce milled peat successfully and if it can be fed successfully into the stations at a cheaper rate and with a lower moisture content than the ordinary sod turf, then that is all to the good.

I would, as I say, ask the Minister to be fully satisfied himself that the question of putting a generating station at Arigna is an impossible one before he would allow the matter to drop. I again suggest that if it is necessary—and I am not in any way reflecting on the technical advice and assistance at our own disposal—to bring in outside expert, technical experience, our view on that matter is that it ought to be done.

I should like to get an assurance—I know that Bord na Móna have been working along the right lines in relation to what I am going to say now —that every possible care will be taken in regard to the bogs which are now being developed for the generating of electricity in relation to the land which is being reclaimed. I think very considerable parts of those reclaimed areas can be made first-class agricultural land. Those parts which will not carry agricultural produce can, without any difficulty whatever and without any very large expense, be made entirely suitable for afforestation. I would suggest to Deputies, who may have some quite genuine and sincere doubts as to the wisdom of proceeding with the turf development in relation to electricity and on the question as to the cost per ton of turf as against the cost per ton of coal or oil, that they ought not to lose sight of the value to the nation of the land which would be so reclaimed.

There was a certain amount of criticism—I am not going to go into that now—because we allowed other stations to be built—coal and oil stations. I do not think that was a mistake at all. At that time, we were facing a position, in so far as we could see it, that, working at full capacity, we would not have increased our generating power to the point of meeting the consumption demand within ten years. The Minister knows quite as well as I do that the demand was growing at an annual rate equal to the output of a fairly substantial generating station. The annual rate of increase in any one year would be greater than the total output of, say, Clonsast.

There are a number of other points which we will get further opportunities of dealing with but I feel that the board has, under very great difficulties, carried out its job remarkably well. There has been criticism in the past, mainly by the Minister himself, at the rate of progress in connection with rural electrification and, of course, a considerable amount of the money, which we are providing under this Money Resolution, will be required to meet the additional cost of that. The Minister talked on many occasions about not keeping up to the schedule of ten years. The Minister knows quite well that when that ten year period was set it was set under conditions completely different from those which afterwards developed. I think it is known to him also that, apart altogether from the scarcity and the difficulty of getting most of the materials which are required, the biggest snag we were up against was the scarcity of trained personnel. People competent to carry out that sort of work are not trained overnight. I think, in all the circumstances, that the rural electrification scheme has been going ahead as rapidly as could reasonably be expected in the circumstances of the times. There is no doubt that it has brought into the rural areas, which have been fortunate enough to have obtained it up to date, very great joy and has certainly done a great deal to remove some of the drudgery from rural life. May I say that its greater progress will also be helped by the dwindling of reluctance on the part of many people living in rural areas to agree to take it in when they are being canvassed to do so?

I think that turf policy in relation to electricity ought to get every encouragement. It certainly got it from me. I would say further to some of the people outside the House, who have criticised it on the question of cost and on the question of the rate of delivery into the State, that they are being unreasonable. I remember it was put up to me, during my time as Minister, that it was not unreasonable to ask Bord na Móna to quote a price per ton in relation to the development of Boora bog which was then supposed to come into operation in 1954 and to quote on delivery what X tons per day or per week would cost; that if they were not prepared to give that information and that undertaking in relation to the year 1954, then they were acting unreasonably and were not approaching this question in a commercial way. The answer to that, of course, was very simple. The answer I made was that I had no guarantee whatever in relation to any other fuel, either oil or coal, as to the quantity, if any, which we would get in 1954, 1955, or 1956 or as to price. Those were the factors which were completely and entirely beyond our control while for our own fuel it could at least be said that it would be largely, if not entirely, within our own capacity with regard to the rate of supply and the price to be paid for it.

I can only conclude by saying that I am perfectly satisfied that the Electricity Supply Board and Bord na Móna are doing a good job and that the money which is being asked, although, comparatively speaking, it is a huge sum for a country as small as ours, is a sum that the House, I think, can vote without any question or doubt. I believe that it is a very good investment which will give an excellent return not merely to the nation but to the individual citizens of the nation.

I would refer to the policy of the Electricity Supply Board in connection with generating stations in the Gaeltacht districts. I know that the Electricity Supply Board is an autonomous body. Heretofore, their policy appeared to be to concentrate on areas adjacent to large industrial towns and generating stations were established in the areas mentioned by Deputy Morrissey such as Clonsast. Even with this huge sum of money, I feel that unless the Minister insists on a change of policy, then the Gaeltacht districts, particularly the one in which I am interested in, South Kerry, will meet with the same fate as they have met heretofore. I do not agree with Deputy Morrissey that the Electricity Supply Board showed initiative or anxiety to develop the "hinterland", as they would call it. During the last two or three years, they were not inclined to assist the rural or Gaeltacht districts as far as generating stations are concerned. I feel confident, however, that the Minister will insist on a change.

The same thing applies to rural electrification. Parishes in County Kerry were listed six or seven years ago but since then we found that adjustments were made and that other areas were selected while these areas were slipped off the list. There is a feeling in Kerry that that is not a fair policy. I am not saying that; there may be reasons for it like valuations and the economic price of such a scheme. I would like to have that system examined to see if there could not be some adjustment in the policy of rural electrification in Kerry. They held that they were unable to extend their normal schemes to Cahirciveen and other Gaeltacht areas in South-West Kerry. We put an alternative to them: a turf-generating station. They said that the difficulty was cost and remoteness. I could see no encouragement from the Electricity Supply Board. Instead of being a national entity and encouraging industrial development, their policy, whether designed or accidental, was the opposite. I feel confident that the Minister will change all that and indicate to these people that they will not get these millions unless they change their policy. They built a coal-generating station in Cork, I understand, at considerable expense. If there were no coal supply to-morrow or next year that would be a white elephant, whereas they could use native fuel if that plant were designed as a turf-generating station. I submit that was bad policy on the part of the Electricity Supply Board and lack of foresight. I place my plea before the Minister so that the Gaeltacht districts in Kerry may have more attention in the future than heretofore.

While I generally concur with the remarks of congratulation to the Electricity Supply Board on this colossal scheme of electrical development and on their attempt to cope with the huge and welcome increase in the user of electricity among our people, there are a few remarks I wish to make of an adverse character. If we have the privilege of voting millions of pounds for the development of electricity, while we must, of course, appreciate that they are established by statute on a commercial basis, we may say, I think, that they are trying to be too successful from the commercial angle to the utter disregard of complaints from certain of our citizens. Once we vote money in this House, I do not think that that is the last say we should have in this matter.

I would refer to the charges in different areas in the country. The scale of charges was fixed years ago, one for Dublin, one for Cork, one for townships, small cities, large towns and rural areas. That has been proven by statistics by people competent to prove it to be very harsh to Limerick and other places of that kind—I speak for Limerick as I know it best—with regard to the development of industry. Notwithstanding years of agitation and deputations to the board, they have utterly refused to give ear to those pleas. They scarcely acknowledge them except to condescend to receive a deputation at some time. We were promised a general overhaul of the charging system in the country. That was promised by the chairman of the board.

Since then three or four deputations went to the board from my own part of the country but that promise has not materialised. They happen to have a monopoly of electricity. They are doing a successful job. People are becoming more electricity-minded. Electrification is proceeding throughout the rural areas. I do not think the fact that they have a monopoly entitles the board to ignore reasonable claims for adjustment of charges if those claims can be substantiated. I do not know what means we have of getting a sympathetic hearing except by comment in this House. I hope the Minister will be able to have a word with the Electricity Supply Board on that subject because they are getting a bit out of hand, if I may say so.

The latest development in Limerick is that in respect of housing schemes the board promised to put in the light if the corporation would erect the poles. It is scarcely the function of such a board to ask the local authorities to erect the poles before they will supply the wires for the houses.

The two items that I have mentioned illustrate the attitude taken by the board. They are definitely causing great hardship to commercial, domestic and industrial users in the smaller cities and bigger towns throughout the country in comparison with what they are doing in Dublin. There is one rate for Dublin, a higher rate for Cork and a still higher rate for Limerick.

We used to think that, being situated beside the base of the power of the Shannon scheme, which means that there are no transmission losses, would be in our favour but we are told that the charge is based on consumption and that there is larger consumption in the bigger areas. Now that the network is extended to the entire country and that it is a national scheme for which this national Parliament votes millions of money, something more than the mere commercial success of the undertaking should be considered. A reasonable claim, which has been substantiated by figures and by accountants, ought to receive more reasonable consideration by the board than has been given so far. Above all, the board ought not be allowed to ask local authorities to do the job that they are appointed to do.

I think I should assure Deputy Morrissey that the development of the investigation into milled peat has proceeded considerably beyond the point at which it was when he was in contact with it and that I think we now have the situation where all concerned are pulling together in the same direction. I hope, therefore, that progress will be all the more rapid.

With regard to Arigna, I do not know what investigations the Electricity Supply Board undertook but a station there is not in their present programme. The suggestion was made to me by a deputation I met recently of coal producers and others from that area that there should be a power station there and, while I was interested in it, I saw various difficulties, although it did not occur to me that there might be difficulties of a technical character. I am quite certain it is possible to have a power station utilising the local coal supplies and producing power economically, at some price for the coal. In fact, the Electricity Supply Board is buying Arigna coal at the present time for power stations in Dublin. The main difficulty I saw in that regard arose from the fact that the power station would be dependent upon regularity of supplies from a large number of private producers. In the case of a turf station there is a turf bog adjacent to the station where a State organisation is producing turf for that station.

Is not that the answer for Arigna, that the State should run the thing? Why not let Bord na Móna acquire Arigna and run the thing properly?

Including the coal mines?

Including the coal mines, not have it run on an uneconomic basis with five or six people poking at it, as at present.

I am not at all sure that the Deputy is right there. I think independent producers working on a small scale in the special circumstances of Arigna will produce coal more economically than any large-scale organisation would be able to achieve. Personally, I have been surprised to learn, having regard to the high price of coal prevailing, that there was any difficulty in disposing of Arigna coal during the past year and the fact that there was difficulty suggests that there must be some technical reason relating to uniformity of quality or other things required by consumers. I think, however, that ordinarily there should be in this country an industrial market for Arigna coal. There certainly was before the war and there is no reason why there should not be one now.

May I say, as regards the report that there are valuable iron ore deposits, that I believed that myself once and persuaded the Government 20 years ago to spend £30,000 investigating them? We got a report which suggested that, while there were undoubtedly small pockets of ore throughout the whole area, there was none large enough to justify commercial working. I must try to get a copy of that report for the Deputy.

I would like to know in what year that particular investigation was carried out.

Around 1933 or 1934. It was carried out by a French company and the report, I think, was laid on the Table of the Dáil. I will inquire as to it.

With regard to Deputy Cogan's suggestion about surplus turf, I must express myself in complete disagreement. I am not thinking now of the Electricity Supply Board in that regard. I think it would be fundamentally wrong to give any guarantee that all hand-won turf produced will be bought by somebody. I am speaking now from very considerable experience of handling this problem of hand-won turf production. I believe that if you give a guarantee that all turf produced will be bought by somebody, the interest of the producer to produce good turf and to save it properly will diminish. In fact what we say to the turf producer is:"If you produce good quality turf and sell it at a reasonable price you are certain to sell it, but we give you no guarantee that any turf you produce or anything you produce that you wish to describe as turf will be purchased." I think that is the line on which to proceed, not merely in the interest of the community as a whole, but also in the interest of the private turf producers.

I was thinking only of good quality turf.

I know, but the Deputy will appreciate the difficulty there is of any State official rejecting somebody's turf on the ground that it is not of good quality. In fact it is never rejected on that ground.

Anyway, the only way to buy hand won turf is by bulk and not by weight and it is impossible for a big organisation to buy by bulk.

I have, naturally, considerable sympathy with Deputy Flynn's point of view, while I could not at all agree with him that economic considerations must not be predominant with the Electricity Supply Board. The price of electricity enters into every industrial process in the country and the board must be under obligation to make it available at the lowest practicable cost. I think economic considerations are going to make the Electricity Supply Board go to the West of Ireland to a far greater extent than previously. There is in the present programme a hydro-station in Donegal, two turf stations in Mayo and a hydro-station in West Cork and, as I mentioned, an intention to supplement the programme by a number of smaller hydro-stations, many of which will be in the West of Ireland.

If there is a social problem to be solved in certain parts of Kerry and other parts of the West—and I think there is need, or there would be in certain circumstances, to provide a market for good quality hand won turf—in the solution of which the Electricity Supply Board could co-operate, then I think we should try to get their co-operation but we must not regard it as primarily an obligation on the Electricity Supply Board to do that. It is an obligation on the Government, perhaps, to organise some such scheme and to ensure that the Electricity Supply Board plays its part in it.

I am hopeful that that idea which I mentioned on Second Reading will prove to be practicable. If it is, it will be of benefit to the areas concerned but, honestly, I do not think it will contribute very much to the total output of electricity.

Could the Minister tell me whether it is proposed, as a result of the Offaly bogs going over to milled peat, to cease production of milled peat and briquette making at Ticknevin or whether that will continue?

Oh no. The briquette process will still go on. In fact, Bord na Móna are at present experimenting with some developments of the briquette process.

There is a rumour round that part of the country that the machines which were used in Ticknevin bog have been taken away to other bogs.

That is so, but it is only a temporary shifting round by the board of machinery in order to get more expeditious work carried out.

But Ticknevin will continue at the same rate of production as previously?


Will machine-won turf be available to private consumers?

I do not think so.

Formerly, in the Killasser area of Swinford district, machine-won turf was available to private consumers.

While I do not want to be too specific, my recollection is that the total output of Bord na Móna bogs will be required for power purposes.

Question put and agreed to.
Money Resolution reported and agreed to.