Private Business. - Electricity Supply (Amendment) Bill, 1951—Second Stage.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

The main purpose of this Bill is to raise the limit of advances to the Electricity Supply Board. As the House is aware, the Electricity Supply Board draws from the Exchequer the capital needed for its development and the amount which the Exchequer can advance to the board is limited by legislation. Under the existing legislation the limit is £36,945,000, and the effect of the section of this Bill is to raise that by £22,000,000 to £58,945,000. It is estimated that that sum will meet the requirements of the board until 1955. Out of the additional amount to be advanced to the board approximately £12,500,000 will be spent on new generation; £4,000,000 on transmission; £4,000,000 on distribution, and £1,500,000 on general purposes and contingencies.

In preparing that estimate of the capital needs of the board it was considered that the demand for electricity would double during the course of the next five years. The House is aware, of course, that it takes generally from four to six years to complete the construction of a new generation station, and as far as the next five-year period is concerned new stations that will come into production are either now under construction or have reached the stage at which construction is about to commence. I will give the new stations in the order in which they will come into operation. The first is the extension of the North Wall station. The North Wall station, as the House may be aware, was built upon the boiler houses which were originally constructed for the oil refinery project. When that project lapsed the Electricity Supply Board took over these boiler houses and built a small power house there. That station is being considerably enlarged and two additional generation sets will be installed, adding 100,000,000 units per year to the board's supply by 1953.

A new station is being built at Cork to burn coal or oil, with an estimated capacity of 200,000,000 units per year, which will be in production by 1954. A new station is being built at Ringsend, also to burn coal or oil, with a capacity of 200,000,000 units per year, to be in production by 1955.

In the following year another generating set will be installed at Ringsend, adding another 100,000,000 units to the capacity of the system, and in that year also the new Ferbane turf-burning station will come into production, with two sets giving 160,000,000 units. In 1956, the first set in the proposed turf-burning station at Bangor-Erris will be in production, giving 80,000,000 units. In 1957, the Lee River hydro-electric station, with one set giving 60,000,000 units, and in that year also the second set of the Bangor-Erris station are expected to be in production, adding another 80,000,000 units to the board's production. That programme of generation up to 1957 will, it is thought, keep the board's generating capacity ahead of demand.

It will be understood that estimates of that character must necessarily be provisional. The total capacity of the existing power stations of the board and of these new power stations to be erected may vary with conditions. The hydro-electric stations are affected by weather conditions and the steam stations by fuel supplies. The estimated capacity of the stations is based upon average conditions. The estimated demand for current is, of course, even more provisional, but the rapid growth in the use of electricity during the past few years indicates that demand will continue to increase at the rate I have indicated.

A further programme for the next following five years has been drawn up but, of course, no part of the capital required to carry it into effect is provided in this Bill. That programme is being drawn up now because if work is to be completed in accordance with the board's schedule during that period, it is necessary to start planning now.

The Bill also provides for an increase by £3,000,000 in advances to the board for the rural electrification scheme. The legislation passed in 1945 fixed a limit of £5,000,000 to the advances that might be made to the board for the purposes of that scheme. That limit has now been raised to £8,000,000. The rate of progress on the rural network is accelerating. The progress made in 1951 was the best to date. It is hoped that that improvement will be continued, although that hope is subject to certain supply difficulties being overcome and to the successful outcome of the board's efforts to meet shortages of technical staff.

The finances of the rural electrification scheme have, of course, to be reconsidered. When that scheme was prepared in 1943 it was based upon the assumption that prices post-war would be pre-war prices plus 75 per cent., and the finances of the scheme rested on that calculation. It is now obvious that the costs of constructing the network, the cost of the scheme as a whole, will be substantially greater than was assumed in 1943. The present estimate for the final cost of the scheme is £24,500,000. On the original calculation one-half of the capital cost of construction was given to the board by way of free grant from the Exchequer. It was recognised then that a capital subsidy of 50 per cent. was provisional in large measure and that if costs worked out different from the assumptions made then a revision of the capital subsidy would be necessary if the board was to avoid losing money on the scheme.

It is more than obvious now that a 50 per cent. subsidy is inadequate and it may even be that a 100 per cent. subsidy would be necessary to prevent any charges falling upon the board's revenue because of the rural electrification scheme. The charges now falling upon the board's revenue by reason of the fact that the capital subsidy is still on a 50 per cent. basis are not considerable and it is not a matter of urgency to rectify the present position. But it is obvious that at some stage the whole matter will have to be reviewed. I was intending to review it later in the present year. The additional capital which is being provided for the rural electrification scheme will meet outgoings, it is estimated, for two years.

The rest of the Bill deals with pensions of Electricity Supply Board employees and proposes to make certain changes in the law in that regard. The first of these changes is to give to pensioners of the board who retired before the relevant dates—which are September 23rd, 1946, for manual workers and April 1st, 1946, for general workers, who are not covered by the general Act passed in 1950—increases in their pensions corresponding to those provided in the 1950 Act. For some reason—it may have been a drafting error, it may have been a deliberate decision, although it would be hard to understand—that increase of pension, in so far as it applied to Electricity Supply Board employees, gave the increase only to those employees whose pensions were calculated on a cost-of-living basis. The purpose of this amendment is to give a similar increase to the board's employees whose pensions are on a fixed basis.

It will be appreciated that the board has different categories of pensioners arising out of the fact that it took over local authority staff at various stages of its development with different pension rights and many of them with no pension rights at all. Only after the passage of a considerable period of time will all the board's employees have their pension rights based solely upon the board's own schemes.

Another change being made here is to make the increases in pensions which were authorised by the 1950 Act, as well as increases under this Act, retrospective to 1st April, 1949. That was done for local authority employees but, for some reason, it was not done for Electricity Supply Board employees. There is one other change in the law relating to the board's pensioners being made in this Bill.

Under the legislation regulating the transfer of Local Government employees to the Electricity Supply Board, these employees are entitled to remain indefinitely in the service of the board. If their services are terminated, they are entitled to appeal to the Minister for Local Government. At the time at which most of them were transferred, there was no legislation fixing age limits for retirement for Local Government employees. Such age limits were fixed by the Local Government Act, 1941. However, that Act did not apply to these former employees of local authorities who were transferred to the Electricity Supply Board, and the purpose of one of the sections of this Bill is to apply the provision of the 1941 Act to these transferred employees of the board. The retiring ages fixed are the same as those fixed by the 1941 Act for Local Government employees. When the board's pension schemes were being prepared, it was contemplated that the normal retiring ages would be 65 for men and 60 for women, and these schemes provide that service with the board after these ages will not count for pension purposes. The actuarial basis of the schemes was calculated upon that assumption.

It appears, however, that the schemes are in conflict with the legislation in respect of that provision, and one of the sections of this Bill is designed to remedy that defect in the legislation by determining as the normal retiring ages the ages specified in the schemes and to provide also that subsequent service with the board will not count for pension purposes. That section of the Bill is intended to rectify a defect in the 1942 Act. In so far as the House may wish to consider these pension provisions, they are more appropriate for discussion on the Committee Stage than on Second Reading. As, however, a Bill was necessary to effect changes in the law relating to the board's advances to which I have referred, an opportunity was taken to make these changes in respect of the pension provisions also.

This Bill is of very great importance, perhaps of greater importance than the Minister's speech would indicate. It was given considerable discussion in the other House. Very large sums of money are involved, sums by way of advances to the Electricity Supply Board, but also, as the Minister has indicated, by way of actual grant for certain purposes. This Bill, of course, is based on the Electricity Supply Act, to which the Minister and his colleagues were so strongly opposed. It is worth saying that the scheme based upon the Shannon development, which was in its initial stages very much opposed by all kinds of people for all kinds of motives, some of them extremely bad, has now proved itself to be, and has all the time been, the most sound, the most solvent and the most efficient of all State enterprises. The Electricity Supply Board has been completely successful. It has not only paid off some of the capital but it has also paid interest at varying rates to the Government for money advanced. Since that is the case, we should take every step to see that nothing is done now which will in any way endanger either the efficiency or the solvency of that particular board, or of the whole enterprise.

There are, as the Minister has frequently stated, and he has very strong views on this, sources of power for electricity generation available to us here at home. I am referring to water and turf. The other requirements for electricity generation, coal and oil, have to be imported. It should not be too easily decided that we must not import anything. There is a considerable volume of opinion, that we should strike a balance between those four sources of power—water, turf, coal and oil. During the period of office of the inter-Party Government a considerable number of schemes for electricity generation were approved, two of them using turf. The turf-burning stations in question were erected at Allenwood and Ferbane. A water-power station was erected on the River Lee, and the development of the River Erne was continued and is now completed. As the Minister has told us, a steam station was erected at Ringsend and another steam station at Cork.

It would appear from declarations by the Minister that he would entirely reverse the decision to have more coal or oil stations if he had his way. However, there is a great deal to be said for striking a balance, while at the same time using local resources to the greatest possible degree. For example, a drought would upset the water supply, and strikes would affect supplies of turf. It is very difficult to store turf so that every station would have sufficient quantities of reserves. The whole theory is based upon the opinion, which is justified by our experience, that the consumption of electricity is going to increase greatly. I feel the Minister might tell us when concluding what the development of electricity is going to cost and what the effect is going to be upon the price of current, because it is true that there will be development. If the price of current were too high the development might not be by any means such as the board or the Minister indicates.

I would like now to consider the question of native power. It is quite true that when all practicable workable water power has been developed the board will still be in the position of not being able to supply the current which it is thought would be demanded at the end of another five years or, indeed, even now. Therefore we must use something else. I am entirely in favour of using native resources if these resources can be made to do the work and do the work under proper conditions. I feel we ought to tackle the whole problem in a realistic way and find out precisely why we are doing certain things. I am all in favour of native resources. I was reared up in that particular doctrine. The question arises: Can turf be used so as efficiently to generate electricity? Is it cheap or are we merely using it for the employment of labour? Another argument for employing native resources is that in time of war we would be unable to import either oil or coal. At any rate we should be able to see where precisely we are going and what precisely our projects are going to cost us. For example, there is no method by which we can control the price of coal or oil.

Is there any method of controlling the price of turf or is it the case with it, as with coal and oil, that we do not know the price to which it is going to soar? Are we able to say that Bord na Móna has been in a position to supply the Electricity Supply Board with all the turf which it requires? There have been very definite statements that Bord na Móna has not been able to supply the amount of turf with the required lack of moisture content which the board requires.

Questions arise about the turf stations on which the Minister can give information when replying. They require immense quantities of water and they must be built close to a bog. How long will the bog last? When it is exhausted what is going to happen to the station? How does one get the immense quantities of water required for the generation of steam while one is working the bog? What happens when the bog has been exhausted? I put it that way so that the Minister might tell us when concluding.

I read the debates in the Dáil and, like the Minister, I am not a technical person. I made an endeavour to understand, and I made inquiries as to what milled peat is. I feel I am right in saying that the briquettes now being made are not the milled peat which it is intended to use in the station at Erris. The Minister stated that the milled peat can be produced, that furnaces can be adapted for its use and that it can be used for the generation of electricity, but at what price? Would it not be desirable to lay upon the table of the House a White Paper setting out the Electricity Board's opinion, upon which the Minister based his own view, that milled peat could be used for the generation of electricity. It has never been used in these islands or in Europe, except, perhaps, in Russia.

In his speech in the Dáil the Minister made a passing reference to its use in Russia. The Minister may be in a different position to most others when he could refer to what was been done in Russia in this respect and to get information of a complete character about what has happened in Russia. This submission was made that the technicians and the Electricity Supply Board were satisfied with the prospect of milled peat in the generating of electricity. If that was so, it would be desirable that both Houses should be told by way of a White Paper on what basis that satisfaction has been achieved in regard to the use of milled peat in a station at Bangor Erris. We are going to pay £2,000,000 for this project, and, that being so, we should have technical evidence of the matters on which the Minister's prophecy is based. He said, for example, that the best water content for milled peat for the generation of electricity was 55 per cent., but one would imagine that that was high. If it was found that the milled peat did not work at the Bangor Erris station, then it would become what the Minister and his colleagues once called the Shannon scheme—a white elephant. I hope that will not be so, but we should be able to see what the evidence is and be able to state quite clearly that milled peat could be used in that particular way.

The demand for current has increased considerably in recent years and we use less electricity per head of population here than in other countries. The nearest country to us in consumption is Italy, and even there they use half as much again per head of the population as we do. Norway uses 17 times as much. It is quite clear, therefore, the expectation of the board that consumption will increase is well based. I would like to ask the Minister if he can say whether the new demand expected for current can be met by electricity generated from turf. In other words, can turf production be stepped up in such a way as to meet the increased demand for electricity? As far as we can get the figures, the average increase in turf production from 1945 to 1950 was 13,300 tons per year. That would produce 10,000,000 units of electricity. In the same period the increase in electricity generation was 75,000,000 units. In other words, seven and a half times as much electricity was used as could have been generated from the extra amount of turf production. It is expected that by 1955 the amount of extra current used will also have increased to 20,000,000 units. As we are all anxious for information, perhaps the Minister will be able to tell us what the figures are and what is the information or data on which he is basing his prophecy.

The question of pensions is one that might be left over for Committee, but I want to make a point that there is a sum of £450 over which no increase might be granted. That is a figure adopted in this Bill because it was adopted in a Civil Service Pensions Bill in 1950, but we should recognise the fact that the cost of living then was much lower than it is to-day.

I would like very much to get further information from the Minister. The board has had a very successful career so far, and much as I would like to see the native industries developed from our own resources we should not work on a basis of slogans or principles alone. It is a matter of technical difficulties and we are entitled to more information than has so far been made available. In the meantime, I support the Second Reading of the Bill.

The introduction of this Bill and the provision of £22,000,000 for the general purposes of electricity and £3,000,000 additional for rural electrification is a clear indication of the Government's policy to continue with the development and to provide the necessary impetus for the development of our national industries. Senator Hayes has at the outset paid a tribute to the Electricity Supply Board——

And to the people who at the outset made it possible.

——and to those who originated the Shannon scheme. That is a controversial question which I think would be well left alone just now. The development of the Shannon scheme did confer benefit on a particular group but at the same time created a national problem which is not going to be very easy to solve and which has inflicted great hardship on a large section of our community. However, this is not the time to discuss that. The Shannon scheme is there and the hardship will continue to be there until some engineer comes along with some device to overcome this state of affairs.

Senator Hayes also paid tribute to the work of the Electricity Supply Board, but here again I would like to join issue with the Senator. It is almost 30 years since this board was established and yet we find that the supply of current falls far short of the demand. I think it was wise for the Minister to introduce this Bill in the spring or summer rather than in the winter, because in the summer, though they have encouraged the people to instal electrical equipment instead of giving them the necessary current to use it, they will be rationing in every way.

A board controlling a national concern such as this should be able to produce not only sufficient to meet the demands but to provide a surplus, and their business should be to go and seek the consumers to use that surplus. Senator Hayes has also paid tribute to the fact that the Electricity Supply Board have paid their way. There is no difficulty in the members of the Electricity Supply Board making their undertaking pay, for they have a monopoly and when they decide to increase charges there is nothing the consumer can do about it. I would like to ask the Minister to go into the question of charges in the country, and particularly in Galway. The people feel that because the Electricity Supply Board is a semi-State concern there can be no inquiry into their demands for increased charges, as there would be in the case of a private concern.

Business suspended at 6 p.m. and resumed at 7 p.m.

I was dealing with the charge for electricity by the Electricity Supply Board. I do not wish to delay on that question, but I would like to mention an incident where the charge for power in 1949 in the case of one particular undertaking was £600, and, as a result of the change in charges by the Electricity Supply Board, for the same amount of power that sum was raised in 12 months to about £900. We all appreciate that the board has the same difficulties in regard to the cost of material and labour as every undertaking. I raise this question to-night, however, because there is a feeling abroad that as the Electricity Supply Board is a State-sponsored board the same examination of costs is not made as would be made in other cases. It is very important that an assurance should be given to the people that everything possible will be done in the future to ensure that the supply will be made as cheap as possible, and that all reasonable precautions will be taken to see that any increased demands made by the board on the public are justifiable, and that the public will be satisfied that those demands are justifiable.

Many of us are disappointed at the slow progress in the supply of electricity throughout the country. Generally speaking, that disappointment is more pronounced in the case of rural electrification. When we passed the Bill to provide for that, we had hopes that more progress would be made. I appreciate the difficulties in securing materials and skilled labour for this purpose, but here again I would impress on the Minister the necessity to use his influence as far as possible with the board, to get them to use vision and foresight in the planning of rural electrification schemes. Each and every Senator and Deputy is aware of complaints from many areas where the scheme is at present being undertaken, on account of part only of a parish or district being provided for. We have had experience in the past of local authorities providing sewerage or water supply schemes for a particular district and making provision only for the immediate demand; and when that particular area was developed the previous schemes had to be scrapped and a new one undertaken at considerable extra expense.

From what I see up and down the country, the same thing is happening in regard to rural electrification. In several cases, because of the anxiety of the residents in one part of an area to get the supply and to comply with the regulations of the Electricity Supply Board, provision is being made to give them a supply. There may be a little hesitancy amongst the occupants in the other part of the area, or for one reason or another they may not be as anxious to get it, but the time will come when they will be anxious and then the original scheme will be scrapped and new poles and higher-powered cable will be needed to extend the benefits of the scheme to the whole district. We should do everything we can to ensure that this kind of thing does not happen. We have seen it occur all round the country month after month in the case of the development of water and other services by local authorities. A long-term view should be taken in this matter.

In the West of Ireland and in what have been termed the undeveloped areas, we have a particular grievance about rural electrification. In many cases, the demands being made at present by the Electricity Supply Board cannot be complied with in these particular areas. If there is not a more sympathetic approach by the board to the question of supplying electricity to the Gaeltacht and undeveloped areas, it will be many years before we give those areas the essential services we have provided for other districts.

In this connection again, there are difficulties with regard to population— the fact that it might not be economic to extend supplies. I suggest that the board should encourage the utilisation of available waterways and the setting up of small generating plants in such areas as Connemara, Donegal, Kerry and places where such waterways are available and capable of supplying, if not the whole area, a great part of it. There is no doubt that we have the turf to provide the fuel for the generating stations. I want to impress on the Minister the importance of urging the board to adopt a more sympathetic attitude towards the supply of electricity to the Gaeltacht areas.

Senator Hayes, while welcoming the Bill, expressed grave doubts as to the advisability of spending such considerable sums of money in connection with the utilisation of turf for generating purposes. If my memory serves me right, when the original rural electrification Bill was introduced, we heard somewhat the same doubts expressed. At that time, these doubts were backed up, it was claimed, to an extent by the engineering staff, or at least by the reluctance of the Electricity Supply Board to look with favour on the development of our native fuel for generating purposes. However, a change has come about and we have seen the results at Portarlington. We have seen from statements made in the Dáil that not alone did the station there stand up to the engineers' anticipations but surpassed them.

We have a suggestion now that we should not proceed with development in respect of what is termed milled peat and Senator Hayes questioned the Minister as to whether he had received any definite technical advice on the point or whether milled peat was used in any countries outside Russia. Is it the suggestion that we, having been satisfied to a great extent that it is possible to use this fuel with success, must wait—we have waited already for over 30 years—another 30 years until some other country convinces us that it is possible and then proceed to develop it? The Minister's proposal is very reasonable. He has indicated to the board that he is prepared to be sympathetic towards a proposal to set up a station to test it out and to see whether it is a success and we know that the board is prepared to proceed with the work.

While we welcome the Bill—its provisions seem generous—there is a question on which we ought to satisfy ourselves. Are we making sufficient provision now or will we, in 1957, when, as the Minister said, the works now in course of erection will be in production, have provided for the demands and any foreseeable demands that may arise. It takes a number of years, we know, to plan a generating station, to erect it, and get it into operation. We recently passed a measure which is being availed of in many parts of the country and which makes provision for sums of money to encourage the establishment of industries.

We must remember that it does not require a very big industry to consume a considerable amount of electric power in a year, and, if this great industrial revival proceeds as we expect it will, I have grave doubts as to whether the present provision will be sufficient; whether, as a result of that lack of foresight on the part of the Electricity Supply Board to which I have referred, progress will not be retarded; and whether, in 1957, we will not find ourselves compelled to bring into operation all the annoying restrictions in the shape of curtailments of supplies which have been imposed on our people for a number of years past. The greater use there is of electric power by industries, the greater the annoyance and the upheaval when restrictions of any kind have to be imposed.

I should like the Minister to be quite satisfied that the provision now being made will be ample, not alone for 1957, but for quite a long period to come. I have grave doubts that that will be so, but I hope that, within the shortest possible space of time, the Electricity Supply Board will find itself in a position to abandon the restrictions imposed from time to time, and particularly during the summer months.

Caithfidh mé fhéin traoslú do Bhord na hAibhléise faoin sár-obair atá déanta acu i dTír Chonaill Mhic Néill. Bhí bród orainn uilig fiche blian ó shoin nuair a cuireadh an tSionann mhór faoi smacht agus a hullmhaíodh an abhainn mhór sin le cumhacht agus solas agus teas a thabhairt do mhuintir na hÉireann. Tá scéim na hEirne anois ar aon chéimiúlacht le scéim mhór na Sionnainne agus ní hionadh go bhfuil sinne i dTír Chonaill bródúil as. Cheana féin tá an aibhléis ag mór-chuid den chondae agus tá súil againn nach mbeidh an chuid eile i bhfad gan é.

Ní thig a mheas i gceart anois an tairbhe mhór atá san obair seo don tír agus ba choir dúinn a bheith buíoch den Rialtas agus den Bhord a chuir tús agus dlús leis na scéimeanna seo. Is mór an cúltaca ag tír ar bith cumhacht na haibhléise agus má gheibhtear an cumhacht sin saor is amhlaidh is fearr é. Ins an choimhlint díbhearceach atá idir tíortha an domhain anois i ngnoithe tionscail agus tráchtála tá dlúth-bhamt ag cumhacht na haibhléise. Cibé tír a bhfuil an cumhacht seo faoi riar go saor ann, tá buntáiste speisialta ag an tír sin. Mar sin de, is ábhar áthais dúinne go bhfuil oiread dul chun cinn deanta ag Bord na hAibhléise sa tír seo agus go bhfuil réiteach déanta acu, mar deir an tAire, le dul ar aghaidh le scéimeanna eile.

Níl ach aon locht amháin agam ar a gcuid saothair: sé sin, nach bhfuil siad ag baint lán-úsaid as cumhacht an uisce atá chomh fairsing againn sa tír seo. Is soiléir don uile dhuine gur saoire uisce ná móin, ná gual, ná ola le aibhléis a dhéanamh. Béidh uisce againn i gcónaí, ag rith go deo na ndeor, mar sruthán Tennyson, nuair nach mairidh gual ná móin.

B'fhearr i mo bharúil-se an mhóin a choinnéail fá choinne tionscail eile ná mar ábhar tine. Táthar ag baint aibhléise as an móin ar ndóigh, ach ní gan costas as miosúr é. Déarfar go bhfuil an obair ag tabhairt saothrú do mhórán ach nach dtiocfadh an obair sin a chasadh chuig foraoiseacht, dréineáil nó míntíriú talún?

Sílim fhéin go bhfuil na portaigh atá againn gan go leor ag na glúinte a thiocfas in ár ndiaidh. Má leigtear don trom-ghearradh tionnscalach seo ag dhul ar aghaidh mar tá anois ní bheidh mórán portaigh fágtha againn i gcionn céad bliain eile. Caithfimíd dearchadh romhainn in am agus coigilt don náisiún fé mar dhéanfaimis don teaghlach.

Is ar an abhar sin atá mé ag iarraidh ar Bhord na hAibhléise níos mó úsáid a dhéanamh de uisce na n-abhann, na sruthán agus na lochanna atá chomh fairsing sin againn ó cheann ceann na tíre. Ní hionann cás dóibh agus do na portaigh—ní thig críoch a chur leo— béidh siad ag rith go deireadh an tsaoil agus is iad is saoire sa deireadh.

The Minister is in the happy position with this Bill that, while there may be criticism, there is no opposition to the passing of the measure; he does not always find himself in such a fortunate position.

The whole problem of the development of sources of power has been something very fascinating in the life of man. Here we have engaged in the development of our water power resources for a number of years and most recently we have turned to the bogs. What has been done up to the present is now realised by all to be inadequate for the needs of the country. This measure, which empowers the Minister to spend a considerable sum in addition to what we have already invested, is another step forward.

I approach this measure, I may say, as I approached the original proposal. I was in the other House when Deputy McGilligan introduced the original Bill, and those of us who have watched the development of these resources all along must feel that, however critical we may be of ourselves at times—and perhaps with a good deal of justification—we have gone a very great distance along the road since Deputy McGilligan, on the inspiration of Dr. McLaughlin, introduced the first plan to harness the Shannon. My view is that we have now come to the point when we should be told about the study which has been done of our total power resources. It may be that this is available; I do not know. Senator Hayes, in addressing himself to certain aspects of the Bill, said that we could develop power from water, turf, coal and oil; could we not also add from the wind and the waves of the sea? This problem of harnessing all the forces of nature available to us is something urgent. There is a need to-day for more power than is available in the country. As Senator Hawkins, who has left already, said, we need more power for industry. We are quite satisfied that the development of industry in many areas of the country is contingent on power being made available for electricity.

I have heard it said on perhaps one or two occasions that we are nearing the end of the development of power from water. I wonder if that is true. It is an aspect of this question which I think requires re-examination and I would like to submit to the House and the Minister my view.

All over the country we have many mountain streams which individually have not a great capacity for producing power but which, I think, taken collectively could add very considerably to our power resources. Senator McFadden has referred to conditions in Donegal and I could speak with some knowledge of the west end of my own county where there are mountains which extend for 30 miles into Leitrim until they practically reach the sea. I know that it can be stated that the development of power from these mountain streams would be possible only at a cost which would really be uneconomic. That is the answer one will get, but if you require power and can have it only by importing some commodity not available at home, at what point can the production of power from resources of our own be said to be really uneconomic? These are resources which are still untapped. While I appreciate the view of the engineer, the trained mind who looks for these forces from some large river where the possibilities are very great, it seems to me that we have hundreds, perhaps thousands, of mountain streams which in other parts of the world would be used for the development of power and which you can harness if you will.

What does it cost? I know many of these streams. I have tramped along their banks in my own county and I am satisfied that, while the cost of building dams with available material might be considerable, it would not put any great strain on our resources if it were done by the employment of local labour and local material. I feel that the possibilities in this direction have not yet been fully exploited at all and, while some may think it wise to build on turf and others may feel that with the use of foreign coal and oil we may develop sufficient powers to meet our needs, I feel that what is available and secure at home should not be left unharnessed. There is certainly work yet to be done and a study of the possibilities of the country will be rewarding.

Senator Hayes raised questions about the development of power from bogs. My view on this has I think been previously stated in the House, and the Minister knows quite well what my approach is. It does not matter from what side of the House the criticism may come regarding the utilisation of peat for the development of power. One of the big problems which will confront the country in the future for generations to come is to get rid of the peat from the heart of Ireland.

I have said before that, in my judgment, if the great tracts of bog which are in this country were in Italy in the days of Mussolini, if he could have done nothing else with them, he would have employed his millions of people to dig them out so that the vacant spaces could be taken over and turned into arable land or made available for forestry. That, in my opinion, is the way in which this space ought to be utilised for the future development of the country.

Another new aspect of turf development was introduced by the Minister's proposal to develop electricity from milled peat. I have been down to the bogs on two or three occasions, and I have examined this milled peat. I want the Minister to clarify this position for me. I am a person who spent much of his youth working on the bogs, but, frankly, I am puzzled to know how one is going to produce milled peat in sufficient quantities, and store it so as to ensure that we are going to have an ample supply available continuously for the production of power by means of the turbines which are going to utilise milled peat. I am not aware how this is going to be produced, collected, stored and, above all, protected against the weather, so as to ensure that it is going to have a moisture content of no more than 50 per cent.

In the first place, if provision is to be made to have ample supplies of milled peat, or if power is to be based on ample supplies being available, I can well imagine stores having to be built which would cover half the area of Dublin. One realises how turf mould accumulates and develops in bulk in a very short period. I want some information from the Minister on this point. When one realises the immense quantities of peat compressed, stacked and stored that are necessary to develop power so as to ensure that the stations are kept going, I am at a loss to know how this other plant is going to work. While I have full sympathy with any new method connected with the development of power from our peat resources, I want some enlightenment on this point. This problem has been discussed in the other House and also the possibility and the wisdom of erecting a power station close to the Arigna mines. There is a great deal to be said for that idea.

I understand that the question of surveying our resources in wind power is somehow or other being measured in conjunction with work done somewhere in Great Britain. I wonder would the Minister be able to enlighten us on that or on the possibility of harnessing power from the sea. All these matters are, I feel, pertinent to this Bill. In my view, the major consideration for us is to visualise the necessity, for a variety of reasons, of developing electric power to a greater degree than is anticipated to be necessary at the moment. Sometimes in the past the Minister found a certain amount of enjoyment in making prophecies about the future. I know that people can be caught out as a result of making prophecies. Bearing in mind the state of the world to-day, by the end of two years Western Europe and perhaps the whole world will probably have reached a turning point. Armaments are being produced in such quantities as will ensure that the western world will be certain of having ample sources available to meet whatever may come to pass.

Already we see not only in our own country but outside it, unemployment at a higher figure than has been the case for a number of years. If America and Britain and Western Europe decide that they have sufficient guns, that the atomic energy plants are producing enough devilish machines and so on, there has got to be a switch over to a new type of production. We must face this possibility in two or three years time or even before that, but anyhow in the foreseeable future. When that time arrives the change over is unquestionably going to come about and be difficult for every highly industrialised country and particularly difficult for Great Britain.

The change over to consumption goods of one kind or another will mean a very considerable degree of unemployment, and it will mean for us in Ireland that 50,000 or 100,000 of our emigrants will come back to us in the course of a number of months. So as to meet that situation, we ought to make sure now, as far as we possibly can, that there will be something for these people to do. Realising the means that are available to us, we should try to develop our own resources so that our returning emigrants can be absorbed into employment and so help towards producing the goods which we need. I feel that that, in itself, is a reason for urgent action by us and for the adoption of every possible plan so as to meet the dangers and difficulties of the future.

I would like the Minister to tell us whether the decision of the British Chancellor of the Exchequer to increase bank interest rates will have any influence whatever on the Minister's plans for financing the development of electricity under this new Bill. Are we going to have to try to do this now with dearer money than we utilised in the past? If so, what are the effects going to be as regards the cost of electricity? I remember examining on another occasion here the balance sheet of the Electricity Supply Board, which had come to my hands a few days before a debate in this House. I was astonished to find the proportion of the total revenue of the Electricity Supply Board which went towards the repayment of principal and interest. Perhaps the Minister would enlighten the House on that matter. If he did, it would be very interesting for us to know the cost of servicing the debt and the proportion of the total revenue of the board which goes towards such servicing. If money will be much more expensive than probably at any time in the past, the influence of this dear money on the cost of production and the sale of electricity is going to be a factor of which we ought to take cognisance now.

I do not know whether any study has ever been given to the possibility of decentralisation in regard to the whole production and management of electricity in the country. It has been said to me on a number of occasions down the country that if, instead of having the one central authority, we had two or three, one for the Erne, one for the Shannon and subsidiaries, and perhaps one for another district in the South, each board operating in conjunction with the others but working on its own with a spirit of enterprise and competition, we would get a better and cheaper service. I do not know whether that has ever been studied or surveyed, but it would be interesting if the Minister could give us his point of view on it.

There are certain risks in the building up of huge structures like those of the Electricity Supply Board. I am not a querulous sort of person and I am not finding fault with the administration. I am looking at it from the point of view of the country as a whole. Especially at the moment, when the development of power is increasing, it is unsatisfactory that the system should be under one central authority. I think it would be well worth study whether it is wise policy to have all our eggs in one basket, to have this organisation under one central authority.

In regard to rural electrification, the Minister indicated that in regard to the financing of this scheme, the whole problem has to be studied again in the light of the increased cost. I wonder if the Minister would be able to indicate to us what these increased costs are. We know they have gone up but, as regards the increases which have taken place, how much is due to the production of power and the costs of installation and distribution? Undoubtedly costs of production have gone up very considerably since the early days and we know that the production of power from peat, rising charges and that kind of thing, must mean an increase in the price of electricity, but I believe it would be important to be able to dissemble the components that give us this picture so that we could see in what way these costs are built up. It would be interesting to measure the costs of the increase due to the fact that we have gone over to the production of turf, as against coal, or as against water. In that way we could see what all this means.

I feel myself that there are a number of things awaiting the further development of electricity in this country. It is one of the matters that have puzzled me for a long time why we have never yet reached the point of being able to create an industry in the country for the production of nitrogenous manures. I understand that that hangs very largely on the availability of power from electricity and on the cost. But when either the present Minister or his colleagues talk about developing the resources of the country, improving the position of the country in regard to exports, balancing our trade, and so on, the capacity to do that hangs to a far greater extent than seems to be realised on the possibility of the farmers of this country having available to them a sufficient quantity of nitrogenous fertilisers which they have not available to them in the country to-day except at a very high price. Certainly in time of difficulty they are not available to us at all except in so far as Imperial Chemicals or some firm like that is prepared to place a very limited quantity of them at our disposal. If only for that reason, to give the country more security than we have enjoyed in the past, we ought to do everything we possibly can to speed up the full development of all the resources of power that are available to us.

I feel with all the other Senators that this Bill is entitled to our support. At the same time, I think we are justified in drawing the attention of the Minister to certain matters and in seeking information on any aspect of the development of those resources and on the purposes for which they are to be utilised, if in obtaining this information, it will help us to have a clearer appreciation of how this power can be used for the benefit of the country as a whole. I can certainly say that the House is behind the Minister in this, but I think we can help the Minister better if we have a clearer understanding of the position as a result of the kind of queries I have put to the Minister. As far as I am personally concerned that is what I am seeking to give to the Seanad.

Our problem, and I think the problem of Western Europe, in our time is the development of power. When speaking on the Undeveloped Areas Bill I mentioned that I had some doubts in regard to our everlasting supply of turf as a fuel, and I mentioned that when a survey was made in regard to the development of the national paperboard mills in North Tipperary in the year 1948 or 1949, it was found in the town of Templemore that the bogs that would supply these paper mills would be exhausted in about 15 or 20 years. Another site was then selected in Tipperary and it was found that there was not an adequate water supply available. It was eventually decided to site that industry in Waterford. The reason I mention that is that in the development of electric power from peat we may exhaust a great deal of the available supplies of peat during times of peace. Therefore until we have developed fully our water power resources we should in peacetime purchase all the oil and all the coal from the resources of other nations while they are available and have our bogs ready to be used during any period of emergency when we will not find it possible to procure outside supplies and sources of fuel.

I also mentioned on that debate that I would like to ask the Minister to investigate the possibility of developing 5,000, 10,000 or 15,000 kilowatt power stations on our small rivers and streams, and I was naturally rather pleased to note that in Volume 129, No. 3, of the Dáil Debates, the Minister said that by far the most economical method of producing electric power at present—and the situation was not likely to change during the years ahead—was water power. He further mentions, at column 421 of the same volume:—

"A list of some ten or 12 smaller rivers has been shown to me on which the board think it is possible to establish hydro-power stations of varying capacities. They explained that their difficulty in proceeding with these stations was the burden upon their own planning staff by reason of the heavy programme I have outlined, and I have suggested to them that they should consider the possibility of entrusting the development of these ten or 12 small rivers to commercial firms."

I am delighted that the Minister has taken that view because I think that it is now possible for the Electricity Supply Board to consider all the various schemes that could be undertaken throughout the country. Would the Minister be able to receive co-operation from commerce, industry and public authority interests in this country which would help him to discover and to provide the finance and energy necessary to develop these smaller river schemes? I agree with Senator Baxter that they are capable of development and the manner in which that would be done is something on which we would like some more information. Will these schemes if developed by commercial interests then sell their power to the grid for national distribution?

In my own area it was suggested that the Suir, the second largest river in the country, could possibly be tapped at Cahir and piped across the bend of the river to a centre at Clonmel, seven miles away. That could provide a large output of electricity and the reason I instance this case is that it is typical of the type of thing which could be investigated by commercial and other interests all over the country. Any production of electricity from water is an everlasting source of supply and the only thing we need to import to produce it, is capital goods and small maintenance generating plant required from time to time.

I would like a reply from the Minister along these lines because I think on a long-term view they are things which the Electricity Supply Board or the Minister for Industry and Commerce would have to go into. It was no good hoping for an early development of something like atomic energy which has cost the great powers of the world huge sums to develop and which I believe they are not going to divulge to other countries, even if they can produce it economically at an early date. We will have to rely on water resources and this is something which the various industrial elements can co-operate in developing, particularly in the small rivers.

I can congratulate the Minister for Industry and Commerce, not only for introducing the Bill, but for his great patience during the debate. Listening to the speeches of many of the speakers it would seem that they had not taken the trouble to read this Bill. I was interested in hearing Senator Burke's speech suggesting that the Suir could be tapped and piped to some place and so develop electricity on that river. I am as interested in the area as the Senator, but as far as the Suir is concerned any developments there will depend on arterial drainage, and unless Senator Burke has a scheme whereby the river could be piped in such a way as to by-pass Clonmel and avoid flooding, there would not seem to be any useful work which could be done at the present time. It would require cleaning of the river, removal of trees and other matters which are not provided for in this Bill.

Senator Burke goes on to say that he has some doubt about the supplies of turf and how long they would last. I am not aware of how many years supply of turf there are in the country, but we know that there are supplies that will last a certain number of years. The fact is, however, that we have enormous supplies of turf available in the country, and it is up to this or any other Government to avail of that turf supply for the generation of electricity so far as it is possible.

In connection with Senator Burke's references to Templemore, I am again as much interested in that town as he is, having been associated with it for many years. We had a supposed miracle there at one time, and another miracle was when the former Minister for Industry and Commerce came down to the town and told the people that they could have an industry which would employ not only the people of Templemore, but people from areas around it. The Minister had told the people that that industry, requiring large amounts of water, could be started even though there was not sufficient water in the Suir at the time. The present Minister could not do anything about the wild statements made by his predecessor, beyond help to put him out of office, but he would not go down to any town and make such statements until he had fully acquainted himself with the position, and knew that it was practicable to do the things he suggested.

It comes very badly from Senator Burke. If he had said it by way of apology, there might have been some explanation for it, but he suggests that something might be done now, the mess having been made by the last Administration, a mess which anyone should be ashamed to admit having had to do with.

Senator Baxter very seldom says anything definite here, and to-day he said he was doubtful about this reliance on turf.

What did he say? Senator Quirke is not going to get off with me as he got off with Senator Burke. Senator Quirke has just come into the House and was not listening to the speeches, and I am not going to be misrepresented by him.

I am one of the few people who did listen to Senator Baxter. He said he was doubtful about this reliance on turf.

I did not.

The Senator says he did not. I will refer him to the records of the House. The Senator said he was doubtful about the wisdom of reliance on turf for electricity.

I challenge that.

It was I who said that, not Senator Baxter.

I was saying that Senator Baxter said it. Senator Burke now gets up and says it was he who said it. He has just as much sense as Senator Baxter.

On a question of fact, I said definitely that I did not make use of the phrase or words which Senator Quirke asserts I have used. I challenge any member of his Party in the House to get up and say I did—as it is contrary to fact.

I am saying that Senator Baxter, in development of that argument——

I think so emphatic a statement as that of Senator Baxter should be accepted.

Certainly, we will accept anything Senator Baxter wishes. Senator Baxter went on and said that if Mussolini found himself in a similar position he would have dug out that turf and would have thrown it into the sea. I am sure Senator Baxter was thinking of his idol, the ex-Minister for Agriculture, who took the rocks off the Connemara mountains and threw them into the sea.

I sympathise with the Minister in having someone like Senator Quirke to give him support.

I did not interrupt Senator Baxter. He and Mussolini have something in common, in that neither have had very much sense.

The Senator should leave Senator Baxter alone and come back to the Bill.

He did not meet the same trouble and I hope he never will. The situation here has been handled by the present Minister efficiently under this Bill. We have a certain acreage of turf which will provide electricity for a considerable number of years, yet we have people criticising the Bill. They do not oppose the Second Reading, but they find all kinds of fault with the scheme. It is a good idea here or in the other House to have people criticise Bills, but if they criticise any section or any action proposed to be taken they should suggest an alternative.

The Minister has got a lecture and I am sure he has sufficient common sense to absorb all the advice he has got as to the scientific lines on which this scheme should be run. It is a good job he had time to be here to-night to listen to that. Senator Baxter suggested that it is not a good thing to have all the eggs in one basket. That is what his pal Mussolini did—he had all the eggs in one basket—and while Senator Baxter would not say, any more than he says anything definitely, that he would agree whole hog with Mussolini, he is not satisfied that it is a good idea for all the eggs to be in one basket.

The fact that we have so much turf in one basket is a very good job for the nation and the fact that we had it in one basket during the last emergency, with the present Minister in the same position, was one of the major factors in saving this country from destruction during the last war.

Is the Senator referring to the fuel dump in the Park?

No. Neither is he referring to the fact that the Coalition Government did its utmost to give away, not to sell, the fuel reserves there, at a quarter of the price they were worth. Neither is the Senator referring to the Locke Tribunal, nor any of the other matters which the previous Government excelled themselves in developing. If Senator O'Higgins or those supporting the Coalition want a discussion on any of those matters, they are welcome to it.

It is time to concentrate on the Electricity Bill now.


Hear, hear!

When the Cathaoirleach is getting "Hear, hear!" from the conglomeration of the Opposition, he will need to look out for himself. Were it not for the present Minister in the previous Administration during the emergency, who saw the value of the bogs and realised the importance of developing them as a source of fuel and for additional electricity, we would not be in the position we are in to-day. Other people thought so, too, but they talked otherwise, or at least pretended that they thought differently.

I would like to ask Senator Burke what he is laughing at. The O'Higgins's have the name of having some brains, but what we have here has not very much. The Coalition tried to discredit the previous Government by suggesting that desperate things were done by the present Minister, and in order to try to prove a semblance of truth in the scandal-mongering that went on, they decided to sell the turf out of the dumps.

What has this to do with the Bill?

No more than Mussolini's handling of the bogs in Italy.

Senator Quirke has come in without having listened to the debate and does not know what went on.

I was criticised for reading out what the Minister said in relation to the Bill.

Senator Quirke does not know what he is talking about.

I criticised the Senator for suggesting that the River Suir could be tapped at Cahir and electrical power developed there without bypassing Clonmel. I do not think it could, as it is at present clogged with trees and obstructions, and until the question of arterial drainage has been dealt with nothing of a serious nature could be done on the River Suir. The Senator knows that well, but in order to bolster up some kind of argument in opposition to the measure he talks that nonsense.

There has been nothing like the nonsense that is being talked now.

We have a large supply of turf and a Bill has been introduced to handle the supply to produce electricity. Senator Burke suggests we should concentrate on importing oil and coal. I wonder if he has ever seriously thought of our position in regard to storing oil. How long would any supply of oil possibly be expected to last? People who make suggestions of that kind should go into the question seriously and ask themselves how many gallons could possibly be stored. I am all in favour of providing storage for oil and coal—and for turf in the Phoenix Park.

I never mentioned the storage of coal or oil.

The Senator had not enough sense to mention storage. He suggested buying the oil, but mentioned not a word about storage. I never heard such trash in this House or anywhere else. He suggested we buy oil and coal without knowing where we would store them.

May I reply to this personal attack? I suggested we buy oil during the period there would not be an emergency, and that the turf would then be there if an emergency broke out, and we could use it.

Senator Burke suggests that we should buy oil and coal when there is no emergency. I should like to ask him when did the emergency start, or when did a situation arise in which he thinks we should discontinue buying oil and immediately proceed to use turf. That kind of talk is the talk of children at school. Anybody in his sane senses knows that at present an emergency exists, not alone in this country and in the neighbouring island, but in the world, and any country, taking serious note of what is going on in the world to-day, must make provision for the time when a serious emergency exists. Under this Bill, an attempt is being made to provide electrical power for the country, not alone in an emergency, but in the years ahead when there may be no emergency, and if there never were an emergency, it would still be wise to provide electrical power, as is being provided in this Bill. I cannot understand why people merely for the sake of talking politics must talk nonsense here for a considerable time. If the Minister, when he is finished with this Bill and has made the necessary provision for the development of electrical power from turf, water and other sources, could possibly arrange to harness the wind that comes from the Opposition side of this House he would have something to work on for a while.

I intend to be brief because I can see that the Minister is becoming exhausted. He has had a few exhausting days already with the Tourist Bill in the Dáil and anybody reading the debates on this Bill in the Dáil must know that every point made on it here has already been made in the other House. It is rather annoying to hear the leader of the other section of the House telling us how to read a Bill, and, in doing so, he is being rather uncomplimentary to his Minister who gave us a very excellent recital of the reasons for the Bill. He elaborated on the point and generally we understood what the Bill was about.

I very much welcome the Bill. It embodies a form of national development which we all should welcome and of which we should not be in any way critical. If there are differences of opinion as to whether one form of fuel is more suitable than another, they are natural differences, but I am personally of opinion that the using up of our peat resources is, taking the long view, not a wise procedure. I have been making inquiries about the life of bogs and I am assured by competent authorities that the biggest bog in the country has not a longer life than 25 years. If that is true, if our turf resources can be consumed in 25 years, it is doubtful whether it is good policy to develop our electricity mainly on a bog basis, if I may put it that way. I am not opposed to it, but I feel that it may have an effect on our subsoils and our whole land development, because the bog transmits through the various subsoils a particular type of nitrogen or fertiliser of some kind which is of benefit to the land. Whether we should develop our turbary resources to that extent is a matter for speculation, and, unless one is technically equipped, one cannot give a definite decision for or against.

I do not know whether the Minister is aware that scientific research has been going on here into other forms of the creation of power, apart from fuel, water or coal. I cannot divulge here, because I got the information in confidence, how this development is taking place or what progress it is making, but it is a form of power which is probably the most readily available to us. Certain scientists have been experimenting on it. The Russians have been experimenting with regard to it, despite the fact that Senator Baxter doubted the Minister's knowledge of Russia's affairs.

I never referred to it. Why must I be always misrepresented?

Let us have no rows among the Coalition.

Some Senator referred to it.

The scientists do know about Russia, which has been investigating this source of power. That investigation has also been going on here. It is a source of power which can be developed, and I am told by a scientist who has made a very great study of it that it is feasible, and I hope that, in the very near future, it will become possible. If the Minister is not aware of it, I shall be glad to give him the information I have on the matter.

We owe a great debt to the Electricity Supply Board, and I should like to pay them a compliment on their recently published report. If members of the House had read that report, we would have less talk and would merely accept the Minister's proposition to provide extra capital. We would accept the members of the board as being people of knowledge who knew their job and who were going ahead with development in the right way. I deplore that a matter of great national development should be made the subject of any sort of Party controversy in either House. We should be fully behind the Minister in securing that our resources are developed to the fullest extent.

There have been suggestions that we have been caustic and critical and that unfair criticism has been made. I should like that flow of criticism to be dammed, and to let the Minister feel sure that everybody is behind him and the board in this development. The electricity scheme has changed the whole social and economic life of the country, and we would never have got through the war years were it not for the great services rendered by electricity. We cannot pay sufficient tribute to the members of the board for their great services and to the Minister for the great help he gave. Speaking for industry in some small way, I should like to thank the Minister, and, through him, the Electricity Supply Board, for what they have done for the country and to assure him that, so far as any big electricity development is promoted in any way, I am with him 100 per cent., and so are the majority of the industrialists here.

The amount of money paid by the Exchequer to the Electricity Supply Board so far amounts to £22,000,000, and I understand that a sum of £12,000,000 has gone in payment of interest. Of the capital, only £900,000 has been repaid. It seems to me that that is a very dear price to pay, and there is something wrong with our financial economy when we are compelled to pay £12,000,000 for £22,000,000 worth of capital development. I know that the Minister will ask what the alternative is, and that brings us to another school of thought and another method of solving our difficulties.

I should like to ask the Minister to request the board to consider the application of a flat power rate all over the country. We should not have variations as between Limerick, Cork and Dublin in respect of power, and it is rather unfair to industries which are decentralised and which, because they are situated away from the source of power, from Dublin, should have to pay more than the industry in Dublin pays. The House should, without any criticism whatever, thank the Minister for this form of national development. We have been under-developed in many ways. The foundation of our development is hydro-electric power, in respect of which the Minister has asked for a further increase. I say: "God bless him for asking and God bless the work," and the House should approve wholeheartedly of it.

I never dreamed when the debate began that, at this late stage in our national history, we should find Senators on the other side expressing doubts as to the desirability or feasibility of the production of electricity from turf.

We have, in fact, heard speeches, especially from Senator Hayes and also from Senator Burke, in which such doubts were expressed. The doubts were largely, I think, about whether it was more expensive to produce electricity from turf and also about the availability of turf. At any rate, even were it proved that it was more expensive to produce electricity from turf than coal or oil, in my opinion it would still be desirable to do so because the electricity would be produced from a fuel obtainable in the country and it would mean giving money to our own people instead of sending it abroad. In actual fact, however, it has been proved beyond a shadow of doubt that it is very much cheaper to produce electricity from turf than from any other form of fuel except water. Surely it cannot be said that when the cost of turf, say, at Portarlington, is 40/6 per ton—I understand that that is the most recent figure—a cheaper fuel would be possible even if you allow for the difference in calorific value between turf and coal or oil. Surely it is not possible to foresee a future where either of these fuels would be cheaper than turf.

Doubt has been expressed regarding the availability of turf. I am not competent to give an expert opinion on this but, in common with other Senators, I have been up and down the country and have visited those parts of the country which are covered with bog, and it is very difficult to see how, in the lifetime of any Senator, a time might come when turf would not be available for the production of electricity or for any other purpose. It may be that individual bogs where power stations have been set up will dry up and that those in charge of the station will have to go ten or 20 miles or further to get the turf. I cannot say whether that is so, but if it is, it would be a more practical proposition even then than to travel to England, Peru or Persia to get coal or oil.

There is no need to consider the criticisms made in this debate of the production of electricity from turf were it not for the fact that during the three years of office of the last Government there was a fundamental change —brought about, no doubt, by arguments similar to those we have heard to-night—in the whole policy of the Electricity Supply Board regarding the future building of power stations. In 1938 the present Minister for Industry and Commerce directed the Electricity Supply Board that all future steam power stations were to be based on turf, but, in fact, during the three years in which the last Government were in power two very big power stations, one in Ringsend and the other in Cork, were sanctioned to use coal or oil. Those two power stations together will, when completed, produce 500,000,000 units of electricity per year and as a result of this policy we have the position that in 1957 when, it is hoped, the present programme of the Electricity Supply Board will be finished and the present stations they have on hand completed, almost exactly half of our total annual electricity will still be generated from imported fuel, coal or oil. It is extraordinary that after the war, during which electricity was very severely rationed because at that time we depended to a considerable extent for electricity on imported fuel, any Government should still have been prepared to sanction very heavy public expenditure on power stations designed to burn imported fuel. It means that for many years to come we will still be dependent to a very great extent on imported fuel for our electricity. Apart altogether from the effects this may have should there be another war or a period in which it might be difficult to get imported fuel, it means money going out of the country which could be kept at home.

I should like to support Senator Hawkins's remarks regarding the necessity of looking again into the economics of rural electrification. The present system, as I understand it, is that, before taking up new areas, the board make a calculation of the ratio between the cost of bringing electricity to that area and the revenue which can be obtained from it. That means inevitably a system of priority: the richer areas get the electricity first and the poorer districts, especially in the West, the congested areas, get it last. That will inevitably mean that, at the end of ten or 15 years, when the scheme is coming to a close, the country, as a whole, will be linked with electricity, except the poorer areas. On the present scheme of charges as laid down by the Electricity Supply Board for rural electrification, it seems probable that, apart from the priority question, there will be people who, due to their lack of money income, will not be able to take electricity. Already the people in certain areas in the West were offered electricity, but because there were not enough people who could afford the fairly high charges, the Electricity Supply Board went elsewhere. I would ask the Minister to reconsider this whole matter, perhaps on the basis that the undeveloped areas of the West would be dealt with separately with a different system of charging, so that they might have a better chance of getting electricity.

There is another matter which should perhaps be raised on the Committee Stage but which I would ask the Minister to consider between now and then. I refer to the position of certain employees of the Electricity Supply Board who were formerly in the employment of the Dublin United Tramways Company. These men are at present entitled to a pension under the superannuation scheme of the Electricity Supply Board, but in completing their years of service as things stand their period of service with the Dublin United Tramways Company cannot be counted. These men would like the board's superannuation scheme to cover that period in order that, on retirement, they would become entitled to a pension computed on their years of service with the board and with the tramways company, subject of course to their making the necessary contribution for those years to the superannuation fund. In 1949 the Electricity Supply Board were empowered to grant superannuation pensions to the employees of the tramways company, but that will amount only to half of the increased pension to which they would become entitled if the superannuation scheme were extended as I suggest it might be. Only a small number of men is involved but the matter is of great importance to the individuals concerned. The Electricity Supply Board owe a debt of gratitude to these men because they could have stayed on with the tramway company when their generating station was closing down, but in fact they joined the Electricity Supply Board when the Electricity Supply Board was looking for trained men. I understand that what they are asking has already been granted to the former employees of the Cork Tramways Company. I hope that the Minister will be able to deal with the matter. There may be some difficulties with regard to other classes of workers in the Electricity Supply Board, but the Minister could look into it and see what could be done.

I congratulate the Minister on having brought in this Bill. It is a matter of very great importance to the country that the various schemes should go on as rapidly as possible, and I am sure that the Minister will keep a guiding eye on the activities of the Electricity Supply Board so that great progress will be made.

Coming from a district which in the very early days of the Shannon hydro-electric scheme enjoyed its results, I naturally welcome the Bill that is intended, among other things, to carry its benefits into parts of County Mayo that are not yet provided with the power and light that that scheme makes available. Notwithstanding the strictures of Senator Quirke on the speakers who have spoken already on this Bill—and to whom I listened right through this debate—as one who, I can assure you, has read the Bill. I was very much interested in the points raised by every person who addressed himself to this measure—Senator Hayes, Senator Hawkins, Senator Baxter and others. I am certain that the points and suggestions they have made to the Minister and the information they were anxious to obtain from him as to what this Bill purports to do and its possibilities, will be informative to everybody in this House.

In so far as Erris is concerned, the erection of the power station is certainly a very effective contribution to check the migration and emigration from that area that has obtained for many years. I do not know anything about how long the supply of turf or peat will last, but I do know that the peat that is in Erris is of the finest quality. In referring to that I would like also to bring in another part of County Mayo, Achill Island, which has peat second to none and which has practically an inexhaustible supply of it.

When I spoke on the Undeveloped Areas Bill I commented on the lack of foresight that characterised the removal of the railway line from Westport to Achill and the incentive that railway line would be to private enterprise to avail of the facilities provided in the Undeveloped Areas Bill for the erection of an industry at Achill. I still deplore the absence of that railway when I realise what an incentive a fuel station might have been for the production of electric power through such fuel and the contribution it would make towards encouraging private enterprise and the initiation of an industry in that particular place where it is very necessary, Every year hundreds of people, boys and girls, migrate to Scotland and to England to give the benefit of their labour to those countries, that we hope as a result of this Bill can be used at home.

Senator Yeats rightly referred to the fact that hydro-electric power is the most economic and I would like to address myself to that question in so far as the provisions of the Bill are concerned with the erection of the station at Erris. I think that in this matter there should be some collaboration between the Office of Public Works and the Electricity Supply Board as regards the production of electric power from water. A question which has agitated the minds of many people in Mayo and the remedying of which is very necessary is the drainage of the River Moy. I understand that at the present time a survey is being made in connection with the projected drainage of the Moy. In that investigation I believe there should be some collaboration between the Office of Public Works and the Electricity Supply Board so that there would be no overlapping. I believe that a very effective scheme of drainage could be carried out in that area and at the same time a useful source of hydro-electric power could be produced.

Senator Baxter raised the question of decentralising control, for instance, having a board in charge of the Erne scheme and one in charge of the Shannon scheme. I would not approve of that. I am afraid if the administration was decentralised there would be overlapping that would certainly not contribute to its efficiency.

There is one point I would like to address to the Minister and that is the increased cost of current. The town I belong to, from its size and population, would be one of the best customers of the Electricity Supply Board for the consumption of light and power. In the early stages, quite a number of people installed cookers for which a separate meter was provided; the power used for the purpose of cooking was registered on a different meter from that used for registering power used for light. During the war, the difficulty that arose in getting meters for new installations rendered it necessary to have the second meter removed from practically every house. The result is that power used for light and cooking and other domestic purposes is now registered on the one meter.

While there is a justification, in my opinion, for an increase in the price of current compared with what it was in the early stages, there is no justification for the extent of that increase. I do not know anything about this particular matter, but people state that they are being charged a flat rate and it is not to their advantage to allow the current used for cooking and heating to be registered on the one meter. If the extra cost is due to the steps that have been taken to extend the benefits of the hydro-electric scheme or turf-produced power to the new areas, some effort should be made to make posterity pay for the benefits they will enjoy as a result of the work being done by the Electricity Supply Board.

I believe that the points raised by Senator Hayes and Senator Baxter would make very interesting the issue of a White Paper giving information, according to the opinion of those in a position to judge, as to the length of time the supplies of peat in the different areas would last and also the purposes to which the turf-burning stations would be put if the supply of peat were exhausted. It would also be very interesting to receive an answer to the questions raised here this evening as to the steps which will be taken to store the peat produced for the purpose of fueling the stations which will be erected as a result of this scheme.

My remarks will be brief but, in company with other speakers, I want to welcome this Bill. I want to welcome it particularly as marking the final conversion of the Minister for Industry and Commerce and the present Government with regard to electricity development and the Electricity Supply Board generally. It is a good thing to realise that in the year 1952 we have finally left behind us the days when the Minister and his Party considered the Electricity Supply Board merely as a white elephant. For that reason, if for no other, I feel that this Bill is welcome— welcome in the fact that it is introduced by the present Minister even though the ground-work and preparation for it may have been prepared before his accession to office.

It is welcome, too, because of the recent speech made by the Minister for Industry and Commerce and by the Minister for Finance in relation to expenditure generally on capital development. One was entitled to have the suspicion or the fear that capital development of a worthwhile type such as is envisaged in this Bill might have been sacrificed because of the speeches which the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Industry and Commerce were making with regard to the financial situation. I am glad that that is not so in relation to this particular development.

Senator Yeats made some worthwhile suggestions which he feels would be more appropriate to the Committee Stage of the Bill. I will look forward with interest to the Committee Stage, and I hope we will have an opportunity by means of amendments put down by Senator Yeats to give these matters further consideration. I feel they are points which might be considered in more detail. Might I express the hope, in a personal way, to Senator Yeats, that he will save the Senators on this side of the House the bother of endeavouring to define his amendments on the Committee Stage? With regard to the question of water power as against electricity generated by turf, Senator Yeats seemed to think that there was something outrageous in Senator Baxter's reference to waterpower. He expressed considerable surprise that at this stage of the debate there should be any doubt as to which was the cheaper.

I said the water power was the cheapest method of producing electricity. I said that at the beginning of my speech.

If I am wrong, I apologise to the Senator. The impression I got was that he was questioning Senator Baxter's reference to that subject. I do not think that there is any doubt about the cheaper form of power. I am merely pointing out that all Senator Baxter did was to quote some remarks made by the Minister on the Second Reading of the Bill in the Dáil.

I could not quite follow Senator Quirke's speech or his reference to the question of importing oil. As I understand the position, though I maybe wrong, there is a number of new power stations to be erected in the course of half a dozen years or so, and I understand that three or four of those power stations will utilise oil as fuel. I think I am correct in saying that at least two of the proposed stations in Dublin, situated at the North Wall and at Ringsend, will be using either coal or oil as fuel. I would like the Minister to verify that when replying, and I would like him also to deal with the objection raised by Senator Quirke, if there is any substance in it.

I understood the argument made by him to be to the effect that it was nonsensical to think of erecting oil-burning stations—I think he called them oil-boiler stations—in this country because of the storage difficulties, and that if such stations were erected they would be worse than useless if an emergency came upon us which would prevent the importation of oil. That is a serious matter, if it is so. A considerable amount of money will be expended on these stations. I may be incorrect but, as I understand the position, at least two or three of the proposed stations will be erected for the purpose of burning oil. I would like the Minister to deal with that matter when concluding, if only to remove fears expressed by Senator Quirke on the subject.

I wish to conclude, as I commenced, by welcoming the Bill and by expressing the hope that this kind of development will be encouraged by the present Government in the same manner as it was encouraged by the inter-Party Government.

Senator Hayes opened his remarks by referring to the origin of the Electricity Supply Board and to the controversies that raged upon it when the first Act was introduced in 1926 by Mr. McGilligan as Minister for Industry and Commerce. I do not want to fight these battles over again not because I have any objection to reviving the memory of past dissensions between Senator Hayes and other Senators who now sit very close to him and behind him in this House, or because there is not a great deal which could be said about the origin and the development of the Electricity Supply Board and of the Shannon scheme. Some day somebody will write a full history of this whole business, but just at present I do not feel like doing it.

As Minister for Industry and Commerce, I regarded myself as the custodian of the reputation of the Electricity Supply Board and the public evaluation of the Shannon scheme. I propose, therefore, to say nothing which might be regarded as detrimental to them.

Senator O'Higgins spoke about my conversion to the Electricity Supply Board idea. That conversion took place in 1932. At that time, the Electricity Supply Board had been in a bit of a mess, financially and otherwise. I shared the responsibility of making certain changes, both in its methods of operation and in its personnel. The board, as reconstituted then, has, I feel, worked fairly well since. I made it quite obvious in the Dáil that I did not regard the board as free from criticism. In fact, in my view, it has been a handicap of the Electricity Supply Board that it has not been criticised sufficiently. That was due to the fact that for the 16 years during which I was Minister for Industry and Commerce from 1932 on, I felt bound to defend it as a member of the Government. The main Opposition felt debarred from attacking it because of their association with the Shannon scheme.

I thought it was a reconstituted board.

It was, and more.

If so, the Opposition was not attached to it.

Do not ask me to explain the motives of the Opposition. I am only recording the fact that they did not——

I am merely recording the fact that if the board was reconstituted, it was not the board the Opposition created, and if the Opposition were attached to it, it is because the Minister has told something that is not correct.

References were made to the present programme of development. Senator Hayes said that the turf-burning power stations at Ferbane and at Allenwood, as well as the water power station on the Lee and the steam stations at Dublin and Cork, were approved by the previous Government. That is not correct.

The Allenwood, Ferbane and Lee stations were in the programme which I outlined as Minister for Industry and Commerce in 1946. The steam stations at Dublin and Cork were not. I want to be perfectly fair to my predecessor because I know he was personally anxious to support the idea of developing our turf resources for power purposes and he made that quite clear to the Electricity Supply Board. If he is open to criticism at all it is, perhaps because of his Party association; he was less critical of the case made by the Electricity Supply Board than I was. The record says that for these three years from 1948-51 the only stations that were put into the programme were those at Cork and Dublin to burn coal or oil. I don't know what Senator O'Higgins's point was about the utilisation of oil in these stations. They will be designed to burn either coal or oil and if neither coal nor oil is available then they will go out of commission.

It may be that because of turf production difficulties Ferbane and Allenwood could not have been got into operation earlier. I am not sure about that. I am rather surprised at the slow progress of the Lee station. Even still I think there is reason to query the lack of expedition in getting the construction work started there. In the programme for the next ten years, —both the part which represents stations under construction and the part which represents stations approved on which construction work has not yet been started—there are no further projects for stations to burn coal or oil. There are several water power or turf burning steam stations. At the end of that period they will be capable of producing enough electricity to supply the anticipated demands of that time. That assumes that the Electricity Supply Board will be able to proceed with the development of ten or 12 small rivers for power to produce an aggregate annual supply of 200,000,000 units. At that stage we will have utilised our water power to the full and there will be no further progress practicable based on the utilisation of water power.

It is possible that at that stage some question may arise about the future utilisation of peat but my own feeling is that it is unwise to attempt to plan a programme after 1961. Technical developments are proceeding every day.

There may, by then, be a possibility of the economic utilisation of the wind or the sea or perhaps even the possibility of an atomic pile but I can say that we have found it possible to plan ahead for ten years a programme based entirely on native resources. That programme as I have emphasised involves the completion of the development of water power for electricity generating purposes.

In regard to the position in respect of peat resources it is perhaps necessary to remove some misapprehension that appears to exist with regard to the location of stations for the utilisation of peat fuel. They are located on the bogs that are estimated to have a life of from 20 to 25 years, on an assumed annual output of turf and it is estimated that at that stage—after 25 years—each station will also have outlived its useful life. The station will be amortised on that basis and, in fact, it is likely that the plant will have worn itself out and will require replacement. By then other stations will be in existence on other bogs.

It is true that up to the present the board has been concerned with the development of the bogs which were considered to be most suitable for that purpose and it is now proceeding to select bogs for milled turf development which are also the most suitable for it. But one must not assume that the development of turf winning techniques will not proceed.

The board is now carrying out certain experiments which may or may not open up new methods of utilisation of peat as a fuel for power stations and with the development of new methods then there will be the possibility of bringing into use bogs which have been rejected as unsuitable for the present methods. One of the big advantages of the development of the milled peat process is that it makes possible the Bangor-Erris station. The bog was examined with a view to its suitability for sod peat and was rejected because of the characteristics of the bog.

Was it wood?

No, irregularity of the floor, I think. The milled peat process was regarded as very suitable for that type of bog. Any other new process that might develop will widen the area of possibility of utilisation. If one were to estimate the utilisation of turf at the rate of say 2,000,000 tons a year for power purposes then I may say our bogs are still capable of supplying our requirements for well over 100 years. I do not think we need worry about that stage. Undoubtedly there then will be other sources of power which we cannot at the moment visualise.

It is true that water-power utilisation is dependent on weather conditions, in some rivers more than others. The Liffey is almost immune from variation taking one year with another but the Shannon is very susceptible to weather conditions. Nevertheless, the directors of the board will use water power to the limit. It is true that water power is the cheapest form of power and particularly so at the present time.

Senator Baxter asked the relationship between capital charges and other costs in the production of power. In the case of hydro-electric stations, it is practically all capital cost. Once the station is built, the principal charge is the remuneration of capital and the operating costs are practically nil. Consequently, it will always be profitable to the Electricity Supply Board to use water-power stations to the limit and only to bring in the steam stations, which involve the cost of fuel, to supplement water power. At the same time, it is obvious that we must have steam stations, since the output of the hydro stations is variable and we could not rely entirely on them to meet a growing demand. It is difficult to give a figure of comparable cost of production of current from stations utilising coal or turf, as a great deal depends on the price of coal or turf.

The increased charge for current sanctioned last year was due entirely to the higher cost of coal. Other costs had undoubtedly increased also, but the big factor which necessitated an overall increase in the cost of current was the much higher price of coal which prevailed last year as compared with previous years.

Is it likely to come down if the price of coal drops?

Yes. Senator Baxter was accused of making too many prophecies. I do not want to make any. Increased supplies of coal from Britain would reduce the average cost of all coal coming in here, but the price of British coal is going up, so what the average cost may be I could not predict.

If there is a reduction in the price of coal as purchased by the Electricity Supply Board, can we hope for a reduction in the cost of current?

Yes, in such circumstances that could be expected, particularly when these new stations at Dublin and Cork are in commission, since at that stage, as Senator Yeats remarked, practically half the total output will be from coal stations. When the other turf and water-power stations come into commission, the cost of coal would be less significant in the total charges of the board.

The economics of turf can be clearly demonstrated, that is, not merely in relation to the actual unit cost of electricity from these stations but in relation to the overall position of the country. Senator Baxter said that Western Europe was going to reach a turning point in two or three years' time. Again avoiding anything in the nature of prophecy, I think it has reached it now. All the indications are that every country in Europe, and almost every country in the world, is going to be forced into trade restrictions of one kind or another in the present year in order to avoid serious financial difficulties. All the news which has appeared in our papers in the last two or three weeks appears to suggest that development in this year. The possibility that we may run into serious difficulty in financing imports is obvious and it is clearly in our interest, from every point of view, that we should minimise imports to whatever extent is practicable and that we should develop our own resources to replace them as quickly as we can.

In regard to milled peat, I must say I do not know why it got that name. It is peat milled by mechanical methods into a rather fine powder. The milled peat which it is intended to utilise in the power stations is precisely the same as that produced at Lullymore for the production of briquettes. There is not, and never was, a doubt about the physical possibility of burning milled peat in a furnace but there was a question as to the availability of boiler equipment suitable for its use. We secured the services of a very well-known, internationally famous, firm of consultants, the Batelle Institute of the United States.

They sent experts over here, who examined the question and submitted a report. I was asked in the Dáil to publish that report, but there is some difficulty in doing that, as it refers to some equipment on offer by firms, mentioning firms by name and commenting on the value and suitability of the equipment. That report indicated that there was available equipment for the utilisation of milled peat in furnaces eminently suitable for the purpose and the manufacturers of which were prepared to guarantee its performance.

Following the presentation of that report, the Electricity Supply Board prepared a series of supplementary questions, which were submitted to the Batelle Institute, and in reply they submitted a supplementary report. In the meantime, the Electricity Supply Board had also sent engineers to the Continent to inspect certain types of equipment to which reference was made in the report and to note their performance.

There is available—I mention this apropos a remark of Senator Hayes— a great deal of information as to what has taken place in Russia. The scientific publications containing that information are available here and, in fact, in relation to turf there is at Bord na Móna's experimental station at Newbridge as valuable a library as exists anywhere in the world. The Batelle Institute reported that they could not send their people to inspect the equipment in Russia and to see its performance for themselves. They had to take their information about it from these published reports. On the basis of all the information gathered by these people about Russian achievements, what they saw in Germany and what they knew themselves had been done in the United States, in the utilisation of sawdust and other low grade fuels for power purposes, they made their recommendation. Following the receipt of the supplementary report from the Batelle Institute, a conference was held in the Department of Industry and Commerce between those concerned—the representatives of the Batelle Institute, of Bord na Móna, of the Electricity Supply Board and of the Department—and it was then agreed that there was no further technical problem to be solved, that it appeared to be all straight sailing, in the utilisation of milled peat.

I mentioned in the Dáil that the Electricity Supply Board had in mind at that stage the erection of a pilot plant at Portarlington, to put in a boiler there to burn milled peat in order to get knowledge of its performance and of the type of equipment that would give the greatest efficiency in its use. They have since told me they are now satisfied that it will not be necessary to install a pilot plant and they are going ahead straightaway to design a plant for the Bangor-Erris station, which will be the first to commence utilising milled peat.

Might I ask whether there are stations in Europe outside Russia available for inspection which are using a fuel similar to our milled peat for the generation of electricity?

A fuel similar, but not the same fuel. In Germany, they are utilising the brown coal which is very akin to peat in the milled form. It is broken up into the same type of fuel.

That, of course, is available for inspection?

Yes, and has been inspected, both by the Batelle engineers and the Electricity Supply Board engineers.

Would the Minister consider publishing a White Paper, without giving business information, setting out what he has said now, with some of the facts—not facts with regard to commercial firms in industrial undertakings—because it would be very useful?

It would be a matter of some difficulty to publish a paper which would be informative enough to impress, say, an engineer and, at the same time, omit the information upon which the recommendation was based, because the Batelle Institute recommendations and the board's decision were, I think, largely influenced by the fact that certain named firms had designed suitable plant and were prepared to guarantee its performance, when installed.

Could the Minister say if this peat in milled form increases or reduces calorific value?

That is a six-mark question which I would not like to answer. Its main advantage from the point of view of electricity production is that it is much cheaper. It involves a lower utilisation of labour, which was one of the problems anticipated in connection with the development of peat for power purposes. It is completely mechanised and, therefore, admits of the employment of a higher type of labour, a more highly remunerated type.

How is it collected and stored?

It is stored in heaps about the height of this room.

How is it collected?

It is swept up by mechanical sweeps from the face of the bog and out through conveyors into these heaps along the bog. I told the Dáil that, if anybody wanted to arrange it, I was prepared to organise an excursion to Lullymore, so that members of the Oireachtas could see the process in use. I suggest that that might be done later in the year when the process is in full swing.

We had a very informative tour some years ago of all these bogs.

I will suggest it to Bord na Móna, if they are not too busy.

It is collected on somewhat the same lines as hay, in rolls.

You do not know a thing about it, so do not try to tell us.

It is true that the demand for current is still low in this country, but we are assuming quite a substantial increase. It will be no small jump in the consumption of current if we double this year's consumption by 1957. That is what we are planning for, and then to face another increase of similar dimensions in the following five years. In case anybody should be misled by some statements made, I should say that in this year the board will have no difficulty at all in meeting all demands for current. With the coming into operation in this year of the new station at Allenwood and the main station on the Erne, it is certain that the board will be able to meet in full all demands for current in this year and if their construction programme works out as planned, they will always be one step ahead of the increase in demand.

Does the Minister think that the increase in the next five years, which will be nearly 500,000,000 units——

1,000,000,000 units.

——will be met by increased turf production?

No. In the next five years, the three coal stations will be coming in and they will be by far the biggest contribution to the increased demand in that period.

It is well they are there then.

When I came back to office last June and saw these stations in the programme, that was the first question I had to ask myself: was there any possibility of substituting these stations by others utilising native resources? Obviously, there was no possibility of doing so within a five-year period.

Is there a possibility later on of doing without imported fuel and meeting anticipated requirements for current?

I would find it hard to answer that question. If the new stations that are being planned at Ferbane, Allenwood and Bangor-Erris for the utilisation of turf, the new water power stations like the Lee, the Clady, the Boyne and Avonmore, were coming in two, three or four years earlier than they now appear in the programme, this other development could have been avoided, but what the situation would have been in 1960 then would be another matter upon which I should not like to express an opinion. As I have said, we will by then, on our present programme, have reached the end of the water power and it is not possible now to say what the position regarding turf production will be at that stage.

Are you not limited by turf production in those areas where you are relying on turf as a fuel? I mention that matter because Senator Yeats was critical of the fact that the Dublin and Cork stations were based on coal and oil supplies. Surely they were based on them because turf was not available in the places where they were situated, due to lack of manpower.

In order to get a turf-burning steam station into production, work must first start on the development of the bog to supply the turf and that must precede the construction of the station by two or three years. In that connection, Senator Hayes asked if Bord na Móna was able to meet the requirements of the Electricity Supply Board for turf up to the present, and, in answering that question, it is necessary to state that the difficulty of planning ahead the utilisation of turf for power purposes is the rigidity of the turf production plan, the inability to expand the output of turf rapidly to meet increasing demands from the station. Naturally, the Electricity Supply Board engineers planning steam stations in the past did not have to have regard to fuel supply problems at all. They designed the station; they purchased the equipment for the station; and they began to play around to see whether they could not step up the output and get a higher efficiency than the plans originally contemplated. In the case of the Portarlington station, that happened. The station was designed to realise a certain output of electricity and to consume for that purpose 120,000 tons of turf per year, but, after the station was installed, the engineers began to improve on the station to get it to a higher stage of efficiency and succeeded to the point that, instead of the 120,000 tons per year originally contemplated, the board were demanding 165,000 tons per year.

They could not get that from Clonsast because that bog was designed to produce 120,000 tons a year and could not be expanded to produce 165,000 tons per year, so the turf had to be brought in from other areas to supplement the output of Clonsast pending the development of other bogs in the locality; but the board did, in fact, get all the turf it required this year although not from the Clonsast bog. The position this year was complicated somewhat by the fact that there was a strike of Bord na Móna staff about 12 months ago which lowered the output at the beginning of the year.

Was there a question of bringing turf to Dublin or Cork?

It would be completely impracticable to transport turf to Dublin or Cork. The only practical way for utilising turf for power purposes is on the bog itself.

To bring in turf would raise the cost?

It would.

I am at one with the Minister with regard to the utilisation of Irish fuel, but is it not true that production from home fuel never kept pace with the demand for electricity?

I do not agree with that. We cannot speak from a wide experience. The first station came into production in 1950 and the second came into production only this year so we cannot go too much upon experience. It will obviously be necessary for the Electricity Supply Board to keep in mind the fact that when planning these stations in relation to the problem of the turf production associated with them they cannot vary their demand for turf from one year to another. They must take a predetermined quantity of turf except that they may supplement it by turf from private producers or from other Bord na Móna bogs.

With regard to the rural electrification scheme, I do not think that it is correct to say that the present method of selecting areas for development, works to the detriment of the Gaeltacht or poorer areas of the country. I should make it clear that it is intended that every area in the country will get a supply eventually. A process of selection is undertaken now because the board cannot do all the areas at once. It gives priority to those areas from which it gets the best financial return and I do not see anything very much wrong with that. I did query with the board whether the present basis of selection which related the total fixed charge revenue with the cost of construction of the network was preferable to a simple calculation of the percentage of residents in the area who would be prepared to take a supply. I do not mind which basis is chosen as long as it is rigidly maintained and there is no suggestion of a departure from it in order to favour one area as against another. The system operates to induce the maximum number of people to take the supply at the time when the network is being constructed in the area. It is obviously desirable that at the time when the board's staff are constructing the network the maximum number of people will take a supply then. It may be that some people will not want to take the supply now and will want it in four or five years but they will not get it in four or five years; they will not get it until the scheme has been completed because that would disorganise the board's programme. Some arrangement for competition between areas does mean that there is every inducement to the maximum number of residents to take the supply at the right time.

In Galway, I think that the area to qualify first was the Spiddal area. When one thinks on the matter, one can see that that was likely to be so. It is an area with a fairly high density of population and there is not a very great distance between the houses. Therefore, the capital cost of construction is comparatively low if a reasonable number of residents take supply and the return will be high. If one could visualise a ranching area with three houses, it would never qualify, or at least not for a long time, because the capital cost of bringing the network to isolated dwellings is very high. When I suggested to the Electricity Supply Board to turn over from the present basis of calculation to a percentage basis, they convinced me that it would not necessarily operate in favour of the poorer areas as against the wealthier areas. Nevertheless, I have asked whether it would be possible to combine the two arrangements so as to give a better system or else to have a separate arrangement for the undeveloped areas.

Our county committee of agriculture has written through the Minister's Department to the Electricity Supply Board requesting that when they are making a choice of an area in future special attention be given to Munster.

It will be a separate district. Munster is not in competition with Donegal or Cavan.

Special attention should be given to it because it is a dairy area.

Munster is an area in itself and there is no question of paying more attention to Munster than to Connacht. Every province will be proceeded with separately and independently of each other, but between different areas of Munster there is competition.

I personally am not altogether satisfied that the Electricity Supply Board could not speed up rural electrification development. I am urging them to go ahead as fast as they can and it may be that they can develop their organisation so as to go a bit faster. I hope that that will prove possible.

Senator Burke spoke about the development of small rivers. There are about ten or 12 rivers apart from the main rivers which are being developed —the Lee, the Boyne, the Avonmore in Wicklow and the Clady in Donegal— which it is intended to develop for power purposes. I mentioned in the Dáil that the main difficulty in proceeding with them was the bottleneck of the board's own planning staff here in Dublin, and that is why I suggested that this task of planning the most suitable method to develop these small rivers for power purposes should be entrusted to private engineering firms. Senator Burke made the same mistake as certain Deputies. He thought that the stations on these rivers would be built by private firms and that they would engage as such in the sale of current, selling current to the Electricity Supply Board. It is intended that once the plans of development are made and the necessary blueprints prepared—and it is only a matter of placing contracts for the works—the Electricity Supply Board will take over.

You would put them out for contract?

Only the planning.

Is the decision about ten or 12 rivers final? Could there not be other developments?

There may be, but of course I do not think that the Electricity Supply Board will ever come down to the mountain streams about which Senator Baxter was talking. It has to be a fairly considerable river to make it worth while at all. These ten rivers would turn out only 200,000,000 units a year—as much as one of the steam stations to which I have been referring.

One of the larger ones?

No, one of the average ones. One or two points have been raised regarding pension provision.

Would the Minister refer to the change in bank rates and its influence on the whole plan?

The Senator is opening a very wide question there. It is undoubtedly true that if the price of money goes up in Britain it will affect the price of money everywhere, particularly here where our banks do business in Britain, and some of them have their head offices there. I think that we are facing a time of dearer money, but perhaps if I were to amplify the question I might open up too wide a subject.

We would like to hear the Minister.

Senator Baxter mentioned the development of nitrogenous fertilisers and the importance of developing adequate power resources for that purpose. At the present time a firm of international experts is examining the possibilitty of developing the manufacture of sulphate of ammonia utilising the gypsum resources of Monaghan and I am expecting a report in the very near future. Over and above that we have a peat gasification project. That is a project for investigating the possibility of gasifying peat on a commercial basis, one of the by-products being sulphate of ammonia. I am hoping that this investigation will be the beginning of a very large scale and important development here. If we had dumped the midland bogs into the sea as Senator Baxter at one time had in mind——

I said if there was nothing else that could be done with them.

There is a great deal more to be done with them than that. We see in these bogs not merely an important source of national wealth but one that is increasing in importance with time.

On the pensions matters that were referred to, there was mention made to the fact that there is a ceiling of £450 in the Bill. That was mentioned in relation to the rise in the cost of living since the 1950 Act was passed. The increase in pensions applies to those persons who retired during the period when there was a Wages Standstill Order in force or whose pensions were affected in any way by the operation of that Standstill Order. The purpose of all this legislation is to ensure that people who retired during that period are not perjudiced permanently in the amount of their pensions by the effect of that Order or that persons retiring subsequent to the repeal of the Order but whose pensions related to their average earnings over five years are not adversely affected. Therefore, that limit was imposed by the 1950 Act. That Act did not apply to civil servants but rather to non-service pensioners whose pensions are regulated by statute, mainly employees of local authorities. That is the reason why that limit was put in the Act and we are keeping that limit here. I think it is true to say that it is mainly in relation to people whose remuneration was such that their pensions on retirement would be under £450 per year that any hardship arose.

Senator Yeats referred to the former employees of the Dublin United Tramway Company's power station in Dublin. I have gone into that carefully, as I did before, when I made provision in legislation to give the board power to giveex-gratia pensions to those people. I am quite satisfied in my mind that there is no need to do anything more for them. Those men are entitled now to a pension on retirement of 50 per cent. of their pre-retirement earnings plus a lump sum, and they have, I believe, no greater claim and possibly not as good a claim as many of the employees of local authorities who were transferred to the board without pension rights.

The employees of the Dublin United Tramways Company had no pension rights when they were transferred to the board. When the Dublin United Tramways Company, on its own initiative, decided to close down its own station and to buy power from the Electricity Supply Board, they dismissed their employees at the power station. Some of them went off to other employment but eventually they all came back to the service of the Electricity Supply Board. It is hard to argue that they have any greater rights than anybody else who came into the service of the Electricity Supply Board, certainly no greater rights than employees who were compulsorily transferred to the Electricity Supply Board from the service of the local authorities. It would be inequitable to give them better rights in relation to pension than those former local authority employees have.

There is a proposal under consideration at the moment for the amendment of the pensions scheme which, I understand, has been agreed to by the board and the staff representatives which may operate to give men the right to secure better pensions by adjustment of their contributions at the present time. The main purpose of the provisions of this Bill in relation to pensions is to correct oversights or to repair what I consider to be defects in the 1950 Bill and to ensure that all the pensioners of the Electricity Supply Board who retired during the currency of the standstill Orders, or whose pensions might be affected by the Order, will be on equal terms.

Before the Minister concludes might I ask one question? I thought he might refer in his reply to the matter I mentioned with regard to the creation of power from other sources and to the fact that investigation of the creation of power from sources other than those he mentioned in the Bill is being made by Irish scientists at the moment.

There was, in fact, a proposal under the technical assistance projects of E.C.A. for the investigation of power resources here, which. I think, has fallen through with the death of E.C.A. But there are quite a number of independent investigations proceeding—to mention a few, wind, waves and atoms.

I shall help to enlighten the Minister later.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage fixed for Wednesday, 19th March.
The Seanad adjourned at 9.50 p.m. until 3 p.m., on Wednesday, 19th March.