I take it that this is the section which provides money for new stations and further development; and there are a few things I would like to say arising out of the proceedings here on the Second Stage.
The Minister quite clearly, according to his concluding speech, has a very peculiar attitude towards the Electricity Supply Board. He thinks it has many shortcomings and he made a very futile and extraordinary effort to prove that there was a conspiracy of silence about its shortcomings while he was Minister. His accounts of the matter, of course, were inaccurate and misleading; but apart from that, we should, I think, know a great deal more about the details of this expenditure than the Minister has given us.
It would appear that a number of coal stations and turf stations were projected. The Electricity Supply Board themselves, on their experience, are pretty certain that in the future the demand for electricity will increase, but as between the Minister and other people there is the difference that the Minister believes that all our future development should be based upon turf alone. He seems to believe that if he had been in authority there would have been no further coal stations; yet as far as I can make out on the figures, it would appear that the best possible development of electricity in this country should be a balanced development, based on native fuel to the greatest possible extent, but also using coal and oil.
By 1960—taking the total output from water, turf, coal and oil—not quite 3,000,000,000 units will be actually available, allowing for certain losses. I think that is less than the anticipated demand. It would appear, therefore, that we will not be able to fulfil our anticipated demand in the next seven or eight years without all the stations working and without using all the forms of fuel available. It would appear also that water power may be reduced by drought; and as to turf, as the Minister said when explaining why a sufficiency of turf was not provided for the station in Portarlington, turf supply may be reduced by strikes.
I would like to make particular reference to the station at Bangor Erris, which is to be based on milled peat. It seems to me from the Minister's own statements that there is not sufficient information available about the use of milled peat to produce electricity. The Minister gave no answer at all to certain questions put to him. Perhaps he could tell us now if there is any example in Europe where milled peat, or a fuel corresponding to what would be available in Mayo, has been used to produce electricity on a large scale. What is the precise material? Can any indication be given as to the cost of producing electricity in this new station? It is going to be very costly, and before we go into it we should know what these facts are.
For example, the Minister spoke about a Batelle Institute in New York. Is that a scientific institute, because the fact that something can be done in the laboratory by scientists is quite a different thing from proving that the same thing can be done industrially, or that it can be sold commercially afterwards? It will be remembered that when the Shannon scheme, about which the Minister gravely shakes his head, was originally projected, an expert's report was made available. The experts who made the report were people who had actual experience of producing electricity from water power, and every possible piece of information about that scheme was given. I think I remember—I have not looked up the quotation, I admit—the then Leader of the Opposition in the Dáil, Deputy Johnson, saying that it was the best documented project of which he had ever heard.
Here, with regard to the Bangor Erris scheme, we have simply no documentation at all. I suggested to the Minister, and I suggest to him again, that we should have a White Paper setting out the facts about the scheme—what it is hoped to do with it, what the expense is, what the cost of fuel is going to be per unit of electricity generated and what the total cost per unit is going to be. That, as a matter of fact, has been done in a booklet issued by the Electricity Supply Board with regard to Portarlington Power Station. Having given some photographs and some information, it ends with a page which shows estimated costs, including price of turf at 30 per cent. moisture, 39/6 per ton, an estimated fuel cost per unit generated of .63d., and production cost per unit, including interest, depreciation, maintenance, repairs and fuel, 1.028d.
I do not know whether it is possible, with regard to milled peat, to produce any estimate as accurate and as close as that, but surely we should be able to get some estimate before we start off on this scheme. It was suggested with a certain degree of horror that it was extraordinary that at this stage of our development anybody should question native fuel, but one of the most objectionable features of a failure with regard to turf would be the setback that native fuel would get. So far from its being contrary to national sentiment or national tradition to make inquiry, it surely is in accordance with common sense that people who are interested in native fuel—and we are all equally interested in it and in its development—should see that if it is going to be developed it is going to be developed on lines which will show it in its most creditable form.
The Minister should tell us something more about this particular project and should lay upon the Table of both Houses and make available for the public a White Paper which, without giving any secrets away, would show what precisely it is proposed to do, what the experience of other people is, what engineers are in favour of it and, if possible, of course, why.
If he did that, he would allay a considerable amount of anxiety and we would all enter with greater enthusiasm into this matter. So far, it is true to say that Bord na Móna has never produced for the Electricity Supply Board the amount of turf promised. The price has been high and, as well, it is also quite clear that the demand for electricity in years to come will be such that the production of turf could not possibly keep up with it, if we are to rely on previous experience. If milled peat makes a difference, the Minister should take the trouble, considering the amount of money involved and the very important point of morale involved, and in order to give people more confidence in the whole business, to tell us considerably more about it, and I suggest he should do so.