Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Winter Electricity Demand.

13.

asked the Minister for Industry, Commerce and Energy if he has any proposals to spread the demand for electricity during the coming winter season by arranging with the Minister for Education for a system of flexi-time with our primary and national schools in the major urban areas and if he will make a statement on the matter.

14.

asked the Minister for Industry, Commerce and Energy the proposals, if any, to arrange in conjunction with the Minister for the Public Service the introduction of flexi-time for public service employees in the State sector so as to reduce the peak load for electricity in the coming winter season and if he will make a statement on the matter.

With the permission of the Ceann Comhairle, I propose to take Questions Nos. 13 and 14 together.

I understand from the Minister for Education that his Department is considering the question of the feasibility of operating a form of flexible working hours for primary and national schools, though not exclusively in the context of energy saving. I understand from the Minister for the Public Service that a flexible working hours system has been in operation for some time, on a pilot basis, in several Government Departments and Offices located throughout the country. Negotiations are at present taking place with staff interests on the feasibility of introducing similar schemes in other Government Departments.

The Electricity Supply Board are completing a study of the likely demand pattern for electricity during the coming winter and I expect to receive their report shortly. As the Deputy is no doubt aware, the peak demand each day normally occurs from 12 noon to 2 p.m. and from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. due, in the main, to increased domestic load. Although I would not wish to comment in any definitive way until the matter has been further studied in the light of the ESB's report, I think the suggestion that flexible working hours would have a major impact on peak demand is open to question.

Would the Minister accept that the working pattern relates to domestic eating habits as well? Would the Minister accept that there is an interrelation between working hours and eating hours and that therefore flexi-time in relation to work might have the benefit of shifting eating hours? Will the Minister make the ESB report available in the Oireachtas Library as soon as he gets it?

I have not seen the report yet, but there is no reason why it should not be available in the Oireachtas Library, unless for some reason the ESB would prefer it not to be published.

Would the Minister agree that the ESB are the specialists in this area and that this is a definitive study which should be made available to all Deputies?