The purpose of this Bill is to increase the amount provided by the Electricity (Supply) (Amendment) Act, 1931, which may be advanced to the Electricity Supply Board, by £1,160,000. For the information of the House I should say that the present financial position of the Electricity Supply Board, so far as advances are concerned, is as follows:—Under Section 12 (2) of the Electricity Act of 1927, £156,000 was provided, and under another section £2,500,000 was provided. Of these two sums authority was sought to expend the whole of the first, and £1,903,688 of the second. The Act of 1931 provided an additional £2,000,000, of which authority for expenditure has been sought for £1,808,688. The Electricity Supply Act of 1932 provided an additional £365,000, of which authority for the expenditure of £314,517 has been given. The total amount provided under all these Acts was £5,021,000. There is to be deducted under sub-section (6) of Section 39 of the Act of 1927, £756,118, leaving a net figure of £4,264,882, out of which authority for expenditure was sought for £4,182,893, leaving the balance available at the end of January of the present year of £81,989. This Bill proposes to provide the amount estimated by the Board to be required for capital expenditure for the three years 1933-34, 1934-35 and 1935-36. The balance available from previous advances on the 1st April, 1933, was £276,100, which is the amount taken into account in calculating advances under this Bill. At the end of January of this year the Electricity Supply Board had estimated capital requirements of £1,436,600, and deducting from these figures the balance available at the beginning of the period, £276,100, the net figures of £1,160,500 are reached.
This Bill provides for £1,160,000. The purposes for which that sum is required arise out of the normal growth of the system. No part of it arises in any sense in consequence of any exceptional or abnormal development, and no part is required for the purpose of increasing the generating capacity of the Board's stations. There is in every year a normal increase in the demand for electricity which involves consequential capital expenditure.
It will, perhaps, be more convenient if I mention in detail the matters for which it is proposed to engage in capital expenditure during the three years. The first item is an expenditure estimated at £50,000 in the present year and £28,000 next year, on the deepening of the River Shannon at Killaloe. As Senators are aware, the partial development stage of the Shannon scheme has been passed. Under the Act, 1932, authority was given for the capital expenditure involved in the installation of a fourth turbine at Ardnacrusha. The installation of the turbine necessitates the deepening of the River Shannon, which was always contemplated, but which did not become necessary until the partial development stage had been passed. That work will not involve any consequential revenue expenditure. It will have some effect in improving the efficiency of the existing installation. There is a smaller sum of £1,500 to be expended in the present year upon various minor improvements at Ardnacrusha, mainly expenditure to improve the reliability of the cooling system there.
A sum of £64,400 is provided in the present year and £5,000 in next year for various improvements at the Pigeon House. The present circulating water supply from the Pigeon House harbour will be inadequate to meet the needs of the increased capacity of the station. Expenditure is necessary in order to provide an adequate circulating water channel and the necessary pumping stations. Because of the increased capacity of the station, a larger consumption of coal is anticipated. The existing Pigeon House harbour is only capable of accommodating boats carrying 500 tons, and only five such boats can be dealt with in a week. Consequently, the amount of coal that can be taken in in a week at the Pigeon House is 2,500 tons. It is necessary that that accommodation should be increased, and consequently it is proposed to extend the wharf and to deepen the harbour by dredging. It is also necessary to provide coal storage and coal handling equipment, so that adequate supplies of coal will always be in stock to meet any demands that may be made on the station.
There are various sums estimated to meet the cost of extending the transmission system. That is, of course, an ordinary development of the system, and although it is not possible to estimate with any degree of accuracy the amount that will be required under that head, the amounts which are set out in the table before me in that connection are what are regarded as the normal amounts. A separate item covers the provision that is being made for contingency expenditure. Sums are also provided for expenditure on an extension of the distribution system, for the hire of apparatus, for the provision of public lighting and the like. A sum of £3,100 in the present year, £4,500 next year and £4,700 the following year is provided to meet the cost of changing over consumers' apparatus and meters to the alternating current system. A sum of £80,000 is provided in each year to meet capital expenditure arising out of the development of new areas. The provision of £3,500 is made in each year to finance work in connection with the projection of future development and the cost of an inquiry into the use of the River Liffey for power purposes.
The Board has found that its existing office accommodation has become unsuitable to house the activities of its headquarters staff. Consequently, it is proposed to provide the capital necessary to erect new office buildings. An expenditure of £60,000 under that heading is expected to arise next year, and a similar sum the following year. The contingencies item, to which I have referred, is being covered by the provision of £30,000 in each year. That sum of £30,000 is provided in the ordinary way to meet capital expenditure of a kind that cannot be foreseen. There is a further contingencies item estimated at £25,000 in the present year, £50,000 next year and £35,000 the following year to meet expenditure of a kind that cannot be well foreseen upon the transmission and distribution systems. For example, a heavy industrial load may call at any time for a substantial outlay on these systems, and the Board must have the finances available to enable it to undertake the expenditure involved if such a load should offer.
The Bill before the Seanad is in every sense a routine measure. Presumably, every three years or at somewhat similar intervals, a Bill of this kind will be submitted to the Oireachtas providing for the advances that may be made to the Board to provide capital for an extension of its activities during the ensuing period. Any abnormal capital expenditure that may arise will be provided for in separate measures. It is contemplated that we will bring before the Oireachtas in the present year a Bill to provide the capital necessary to undertake the provision of additional storage on the Shannon, and to make certain changes in the law affecting the Electricity Supply Board. That Bill might have been part and parcel of this measure, but for the desirability of having the amount which this deals with provided without delay, and the fact that the other Bill will take some time to draft because of complicated legal points that are involved.
The Seanad may be interested to know the present position of the scheme and of the Electricity Supply Board's finances. The report of the Board for the year 1932-33 was circulated to all members of the Oireachtas two or three weeks ago, and presumably has been noted by them. The Board closed its accounts for the year, showing a small surplus after making no provision for depreciation, but otherwise meeting all its working costs and paying interest on advances made to date. The repayment of advances has not yet begun. Since 31st March, the last date covered by that report, the revenue of the Board has increased by £75,000. That covers the period from 1st April to 31st January. The number of units generated increased by 15,000,000, and the number of additional consumers connected was 6,560. A number of new areas were connected up during the period, and when the money asked for under this Bill is provided it is intended to wire up a large number of additional towns. The position of the Electricity Supply Board is improving, as the accounts show, and as the figures which I have just mentioned indicate, but it cannot yet be said to be in the satisfactory position that we would all like to see it in. It is making progress towards that position, and I am sure we all trust that that progress will be continued.