Since this Bill was debated on Second Reading and in Committee certain statements have appeared in the public Press which give ground for alarm. I suggest it is desirable that they should be brought to the notice of the Minister with a view to having an official explanation. The House will remember that the Shannon Scheme was undertaken after an exhaustive inquiry by experts. Those experts gave, as their considered opinion, on page 97 of their report, that: "About 153,000,000 k.w.h. per year at the transmission busbars of the power station, which output is in accordance with the curve of requirements estimated by the experts. This quantity will be available even during a dry year." That was the essential data on which the whole scheme was undertaken. Well we have had two dry years. In the year 1933 the water generation only produced 143,000,000 units. The balance had to be supplied by steam. These figures have appeared in the public Press. The Minister, of course, may say that they are incorrect. I am assuming for the moment, as the basis of my argument, that they are correct. In the year 1934 water power supplied 103,000,000 units and steam 82,000,000 units. These figures certainly give ground for serious alarm. What is done is done. It may be remedied but it cannot be undone. Now we are being asked to spend further moneys on the development of the Shannon. The same experts have been called in and, presumably, it is on their report that this is being done. We have not seen their report. We do not know what explanation they have to offer with regard to what appears to be their original and erroneous calculations. The whole position now appears to be one that calls for the exercise of their responsibilities by members of the House and for very serious consideration indeed as to whether we are right, merely on the representations of the Supply Board, in assenting to the proposals in this Bill.
This Bill, presumably, is based on the experts' report and is vouched for by the Minister. I feel very strongly on this. I have no expert knowledge. As an original critic of the scheme I do not wish in any way to take credit for the alarm that I then felt, but it appears now that my alarm then has been fully justified. Apart altogether from the financial grounds, which were the main grounds on which my earlier criticisms were based, on purely technical grounds there has been a very serious miscalculation. Now, without inquiry, or at any rate without revealed inquiry, we are asked to spend further moneys on the Shannon scheme while we are not in a position to consider whether it would not be better to let that scheme remain as it is and to spend money on other sources of water supply, the Liffey or some other.
On this general question I want to ask the Minister to give us certain essential figures: what is the cost of generation by water as against that by coal. I have searched the reports of the Electricity Supply Board to see if these figures are available, but I could not find them. One would like to know the costs under essential headings, especially distinguishing between direct costs and overheads. One would imagine, of course, that in the case of water supply the overheads must be much higher because of the very heavy capital charges that have to be carried, and that the direct charges should be lower. In the case of steam it should be the other way about: that the direct charges would be higher and the overhead charges less. I feel that we have a right to know what these costs are. We are faced with this serious miscalculation—I speak subject to correction—with regard to the generating power of the Shannon. I think that we are entitled to have those figures even at this the last moment and not allow this Bill to pass but that it should be sent back to the Government for further investigation.