The Minister for Transport and Power has asked me to take the Second Stage of this Bill on his behalf. The main object of the Bill is to provide an extra £5,000,000 capital for Bord na Móna. Under the Turf Development Acts, 1946 to 1959, Bord na Móna may borrow up to £19,000,000 for the performance of their functions, exclusive of the housing of their servants. The Board may obtain capital up to this amount by way of advances from the Minister for Finance or by the creation of stock or other forms of security. In the exercise of these powers the Board have to-date borrowed a total of £18,991,472 of which £750,000 was obtained from Messrs. Arthur Guinness and £52,000 from the Board's own Superannuation Funds, the balance being provided by the State.
Bord na Móna have already repaid to the Central Fund a sum of £554,000 in respect of assets taken over from the Turf Development Board Ltd. Repayment with interest of advances, amounting to £9,637,557 will be completed on 1st April, 1985 and repayment of the remaining advances will commence when the bogs on which the capital is being invested, come into production.
It is the policy of the Government that all bogs which are economically usable for electricity generation shall be developed and the main output of Bord na Móna is determined by the requirements of peat for this purpose. Development of a bog to the production stage requires a period of five years, more or less. Already five peat-fired electricity stations with an aggregate capacity of 185 megawatts have been commissioned. There are also four 5 megawatt stations using hand-won turf. The future programme of the Electricity Supply Board provides for the commissioning of additional peat-fired plant to a total capacity of 242.5 megawatts by 1968/69. On the completion of this programme a total of 447.5 megawatts of generating plant will be peat-fired.
At the 31st March, 1961, peat-fired stations represented 205 megawatts of the total generating capacity of 723.5 megawatts, that is to say about 28%. In the year ended 31st March, 1961, 80% of electricity generated came from native resources and just over 40% of this native production came from peat-fired stations.
The programme of peat-fired generating plant which I have outlined extends to 1968/69 and represents the maximum foreseeable bog development for electricity generation. Thereafter peat-fired generation capacity will represent a gradually diminishing proportion of total capacity.
To meet the requirements of the electricity generating plant construction programme up to 1968/69, Bord na Móna are developing or will develop additional areas of bog in the Boora, Derrygreenagh, Bangor-Erris, Garryduff and Longford groups. The Blackwater bog, which has been reserved for the nitrogenous fertiliser project, is now available to provide the milled peat for a 40 megawatt station planned for Shannonbridge in 1964/65. The bog development programme provides, ultimately, for an annual production for electricity generation of 580,000 tons of sod peat and 2,500,000 tons of milled peat. In addition to their output for electricity generation Bord na Móna also produced some 320,000 tons of sod peat for general consumption. Other aspects of their activities are the production of peat briquettes for domestic and industrial consumption and peat moss. Capacity for briquettes is 250,000 tons per annum requiring 750,000 tons of milled peat. The annual production of peat moss is at present about 250,000 bales, mostly for export. The number of persons employed by the Board, in all grades, amounts to about 7,000 at peak.
The present statutory limit of £19,000,000 on the total amount which the Board may borrow for the performance of their functions (exclusive of the housing of their workers) was intended to cover the requirements of the Board up to 1960/61 and the need for further provision in 1961/62 was foreseen when the limit of £19,000,000 was fixed by the Turf Development Act, 1959. It is estimated that the completion of the development programme will necessitate additional expenditure amounting to about £8,000,000 bringing the total up to about £27,000,000. The present Bill proposes an increase in the statutory limit of £5,000,000 bringing it up to £24,000,000. This increase should enable the Board to meet their requirements until about 1964/65 and at that time the House will have a further opportunity to consider the position.
The opportunity of this Bill is being taken to effect the amendment in the law relating to the tenancy of the houses built by Bord na Móna under the power conferred on them by Section 5 of the Turf Development Act, 1950. That Section permits the Board to let these houses only to their servants. Houses become temporarily vacant when a tenant leaves the employment of the Board. Suitable tenants from among the Board's workers may not immediately apply for the tenancies and houses may therefore be vacant for long periods. This is clearly undesirable and accordingly it is proposed by Section 3 (2) of this Bill to give the Board power to let vacant houses to persons who would not ordinarily qualify for tenancies. To give the Board a wider field from which to obtain suitable occupiers it is proposed to relax the restrictions confining tenancies to servants of the Board. The Board of course will only make such lettings in cases where they are satisfied that the houses would otherwise remain vacant for extended periods. The Bill also provides that the Board may sell houses which may eventually be found to be permanently surplus to their requirements. Any such houses would be sold by public tender.
I recommend the Bill for the approval of the House. Bord na Móna, management and workers, are to be congratulated on their successful progress in carrying out the novel task assigned to them by the Oireachtas and the Bill will facilitate further development on approved lines.