Electricity (Supply) (Amendment) Bill, 1974: Second and Subsequent Stages.

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

The purposes of this Bill are to increase the limit of authorised capital expenditure by the ESB for all purposes, including rural electrification, from the existing limit of £450 million to a new figure of £700 million and to delete detailed provisions dealing with the terms of pension schemes for wholetime members of the board of the ESB.

Under existing legislation the ESB are authorised to incur expenditure for capital purposes up to a limit of £450 million. By the end of June, 1973, the total capital expenditure approved by the board had risen to £420 million, which will cover generating plant and transmission and distribution equipment due for commissioning up to the end of the present decade. However, over the next few years the board will have to decide on details of future generating capacity which will require capital expenditure exceeding the present statutory limit.

The long-term forecast of the demand for electricity is based on the growth rate of 10 per cent per annum which existed for some years prior to the recent energy crisis. It might be argued that the increased prices of electricity could lead to a falling-off in future demand, as prices are unlikely to return to anything like their former levels in the foreseable future. Electricity conrumption at the present time is in fact sunning at the same level as in the corresponding period last year. At this stage it is not possible to predict the future rate of growth. The high price of electricity must necessarily mean greater economy and care in its use but on the other hand electricity is relatively no dearer than other forms of energy and consequently there is no likelihood of a significant shift to other forms of light, heat and power.

Electricity consumption has increased in the past at a greater rate than other forms of energy and it is expected in most countries that this tendency will continue in future. In all the circumstances I consider that for the present at any rate it is prudent for the board to base their plans on a growth rate of 10 per cent per annum over the medium term we are dealing with in the context of this Bill and that the statutory limit on capital expenditure should be fixed on this basis. Should it prove to be the case that growth does not take place at this rate, the board's plans are sufficiently flexible to allow postponement of some elements of the new capacity so as to keep capacity and requirements in reasonable balance. In such an event the statutory limit on capital expenditure would suffice for a longer period. A sufficiency of electricity is of such importance to the country both socially and economically that we must not run any risk of finding ourselves without adequate capacity to meet our needs. The board's programme within the statutory limit on expenditure is required to be submitted in detail for my approval from time to time and in that way the position will be reviewed at regular intervals in the light of experience.

The present generating capacity of the ESB is 1,798 MW and additional generating stations approved for construction total 1,392 MW. These are due for commissioning between now and 1980 and comprise four 250 MW units —two at Tarbert and two at Poolbeg; a 60 MW plant at Marina; the pumped storage plants totalling 292 MW at Turlough Hill and a 40 MW extension to Shannonbridge milled peat plant.

To cater for the growth in demand additional generating capacity of some 1,100 MW will require to be brought into service in the period 1980-82. The board will soon have to enter into the earlier of the various contracts involved. The total capital expenditure to which the board expect to have to commit themselves in the next few years is estimated at £250 million at present day prices. The actual expenditure will be spread over a period extending somewhat beyond 1982. The addition of £250 million comprises expenditure of:

Generation

£175 million

Transmission/System

Operation

£20 ,,

Distribution

£45 ,,

Premises & General

£10 ,,

As Senators will be aware, this country at present depends on imported oil for almost 70 per cent of our primary energy requirements. The recent oil crisis has made two facts very clear: that the era of cheap oil is over and that countries can no longer plan their energy programmes with the assurance of uninterrupted supplies of oil.

The recent unprecedented increase in electricity charges was a direct consequence of the rise in oil prices. The Government are fully conscious of the heavy impost which the increased charges represent for the householder and for all sectors of the economy. These charges are particularly felt because of the pervasive role which electricity plays in all our lives. As I say however the increased charges are a direct consequence of the rise in world oil prices and there was no practical alternative to the introduction of electricity chages commensurate with the new oil prices. I might add that despite these very substantial increases electricity charges in this country compare favourably with the rest of Europe.

The energy crisis has served to reinforce our present policy in two areas: the resolve to maximise the contribution of native resources and to move away from our present overdependence on imported oil. Prior to the onset of the energy crisis it had been accepted that Ireland's native sources of primary energy—hydro, turf and a small amount of coal—were being fully developed. The position has been reviewed in the light of the changed energy situation, particularly the increased price level of all forms of energy.

Bord na Móna carried out a reexamination of bog areas which had previously been considered unsuitable for economic development in the face of low-cost imported fuels. Bord na Móna and the ESB are now drawing up plans for a new turf development programme under which greatly increased quantities of peat would be produced for electricity generation. It is envisaged that additional turf-fuelled generation plant of about 160 MW capacity will be provided capable of producing 700,000 units of electricity annually. The ESB are also reviewing the possibility of using a low-grade home-produced coal which had hitherto been regarded as too costly.

In addition, the ESB are converting some of their generating plant to dual firing which will allow the use of coal or oil depending on availability.

Marathon Petroleum Ireland Limited have confirmed the presence of a significant deposit of natural gas at a point 29 miles to the south-east of the Old Head of Kinsale. The find is described as relatively small in comparison with offshore finds currently scheduled for development in the North Sea and is not sufficiently large to justify a grid distribution system for use of the gas as a fuel throughout Ireland. The present intention is that the gas should be piped ashore in the neighbourhood of Cork city and that priority should be given to the use of the gas for the generation of electricity and the production of ammonia for the nitrogenous fertiliser industry.

It is calculated that the deposit when fully developed should be capable of supporting a daily flow rate of 125 million cubic feet of natural gas for about 20 years. The ESB propose as a first step that a 75 MW gas-fired plant should be provided at Marina in 1977, with an initial production of 300 million units of electricity in that year. In subsequent years up to 1982 a number of gas-fired gas turbines will be provided at Whitegate with the subsequent addition of steam turbines using the waste heat to give a total capacity of approximately 500 MW at the Whitegate plant.

The use of the natural gas for the generation of electricity may be objected to on the grounds that this is not the most efficient use of a high-grade fuel. The combination of gas-fired gas turbines with the subsequent addition of steam turbines using the waste heat will however give the highest possible efficiency for the use of natural gas in power stations.

Having regard to our heavy dependence on imported oil and the necessity to ensure the greatest possible security of sources of energy in the event of another emergency similar to the one we had last winter, I think that the use of a large proportion of the gas for the generation of electricity can be fully justified.

I understand that the gas is of excellent quality and is suitable as a raw material for the manufacture of ammonia. It is proposed that approximately 52 million cubic feet a day should be used for an ammonia plant which Nítrigin Éireann Teo are setting up at Cork. This would meet the potential demand for ammonia, for the following decade, of the nitrogenous fertiliser industry for the whole Irish market. Gas used for the production of ammonia will replace oil which normally would have to be imported for this purpose.

Nuclear energy has now emerged as the best large-scale alternative to oil for electricity generation. Since the Government approval in principle of the ESB proposal to construct a nuclear power station the board have been proceeding with their plans. Their aim is to issue an inquiry, towards the end of 1974, for a reactor in the 600 MW range with a commissioning date of 1982. The estimated cost of the reactor is £130/150 million. The selection of a site for a nuclear station is primarily a matter for the ESB. They have recently indicated a preference for Carnsore, County Wexford. A final decision on the siting of the station will not however be taken until further detailed investigation by the ESB is completed, a recommendation has been received from the Nuclear Energy Board and formal approval is given by the Government. The Nuclear Energy Board have wide powers to ensure that adequate control is exercised over nuclear material and the operation of the nuclear station, and will oversee all stages of the design and installation of the plant.

It is also a function of the board to prepare safety codes and regulations taking into account the experience of nuclear power in other countries and the standards recommended by international bodies dealing with nuclear energy. There are about 150 nuclear reactors in commission elsewhere and the ESB are satisfied that techniques are now sufficiently developed to make nuclear power safe.

In the present world energy situation diversification in the forms of energy used for electricity generation is of paramount importance. The recent crisis has clearly demonstrated this. We in this country have been particularly vulnerable because of our very high and growing dependence on imported oil. Our present plans will do much to remedy this situation. Considerable diversification and security will be achieved by our plans for the greater use of peat, use of natural gas from our own shores and finally nuclear power. All this will bring about a much greater spread in our electricity sources.

Having outlined the ESB's future supply plans, I should now like to bring Senators up to date on progress of one of the board's current programmes— rural electrification. As Senators will be aware, the four-year crash programme designed to achieve the completion of the rural electrification scheme is in its final year. It is expected that supply will have been offered in all the 792 rural areas by 31st March, 1975, although the work may not be completed perhaps for several months afterwards. At the beginning of 1974 applications for supply had been invited, either by canvass or by advertisement, from residents in 552 of the 792 rural areas. The ESB expect that they will have made 60,000 new connections by the end of the crash programme, compared with the original estimate of 36,000. The character of the rural electrification scheme has changed significantly since the original programme was devised in 1946. Then it was simply a matter of connecting houses already built to the supply. Now it is also necessary to cater for new houses, industrial developments and the increasing demands of the agricultural community. In the year ended 31st March, 1974, capital expenditure on rural electrification was approximately £4 million, bringing the total invested in the rural electrification scheme at that date to over £59.5 million, of which £21 million was by way of Government subsidy.

The present capital expenditure figures for the ESB and the magnitude of future expenditure give some indication of the growth of the electricity industry and the important role the ESB play in the life of the community. The operation and running of the ESB have been the subject of two major inquiries in the last few years—the Fogarty Report, which specialised in the board's industrial relations; and the Fletcher Report, which was a general investigation into the affairs of the board. In both these cases the recommendations of the investigating committees have been fully implemented in so far as lies within the board's competence. The findings of the Fletcher Committee were quite complimentary to the ESB's performance and planning.

Certain recommendations in the Fletcher Report which would require new legislation are under consideration. These recommendations are of a long-term nature and mainly relate to the financial regime within which the board are required to operate. The existing framework was laid down in the Electricity (Supply) Act, 1927. That Act requires the board to operate on a break-even basis after making provision for all charges properly chargeable to revenue. The board are statutorily precluded from making a profit. The mandate laid down in the 1927 Act has worked well down the years and has stood the test of time. However it is being reviewed in the light of the Fletcher recommendations to see how far it should be modernised to conform with present-day thinking on more sophisticated financial structures for State companies. Any change will require legislation and the House will then have an opportunity of considering the matter.

Fuel efficiency is now more than ever a matter of particular concern to the ESB in the design of stations, the control of their operation and the allocation of loading to the more efficient plants. It is heartening to note that the board's new Poolbeg station has achieved a level of thermal efficiency which is a record for the board plant and indeed is excellent by any standard in the world. I am satisfied that both in this matter and in the management of their own affairs, the ESB are in the forefront of electricity authorities throughout the world.

The purpose of the second section of this Bill is to delete sections 17 and 18 from the Electricity (Supply) (Amendment) Act, 1961. Section 16 of the 1961 Act provides for the making of pension schemes to cover whole-time members of the board.

Sections 17 and 18 and the Schedule of the Act outline the provisions required to be included in every pension scheme or amending scheme for whole-time members of the board. The detailed provisions outlined in sections 17 and 18 and the Schedule to the Act are not sufficiently broad to permit the pension scheme for whole-time members of the board to be brought into line with the superannuation rights which the board's employees enjoy. It is therefore necessary to delete these provisions from the Act. This will facilitate the amendment of the scheme from time to time to keep it in line with developments elsewhere in public service pensions. The deletion of the provisions of sections 17 and 18 and the Schedule would bring the statutory provisions in line with those governing the superannuation schemes for the whole-time members of other State bodies.

I might mention that the chairman of the board is the only whole-time member of the board.

I commend the Bill to the Seanad.

Ba mhaith liomsa ar an gcéad dul síos fáilte a chur roimh an mBille seo. Tá an-athas orm go bhfuil an tAire ag tabhairt isteach Bille mar seo chun deis a thabhairt don Bord Soláthair Leictreachais níos mó airgid a sholáthar dóibh féin agus mar dheontas chun leanúint ar aghaidh leis an dea-obair atá á dhéanamh acu.

I want to say I welcome this Bill and we in this side of the House have no objections whatever to it. I should like to compliment the Minister on his opening speech. It contained much useful information. A Bill such as this gives a Senator an opportunity of making a few remarks pertaining to the subject of the ESB and their operations during the years. It is only fair to say that the ESB since their foundation have been an outstandingly progressive State body.

History will record that by their industry and diligence the ESB have done more to further the advancement of the ordinary people of this country than any other group within the State. They have pioneered many worthwhile schemes. Since the foundation of the ESB the whole pattern of life, not only in our cities but also in the rural areas, has changed completely. They had many difficulties to reckon with. People were not sufficiently educated to the merits of electricity. It was difficult to persuade them to avail of the services provided. They considered it dangerous so far as fire hazards were concerned. It has only been in the last 20 or 30 years that they have educated themselves to the immense benefits that flow from the system.

We in this young nation have provided a broader basis for electrical services than any other modern country. We got very little assistance from outside countries. We had to stand on our own feet. The ESB have extended the rural electrification scheme all over Ireland. The comforts and blessings which electricity brings to the city dwellers are also obtainable to people in remote parts of Ireland.

I would urge the ESB—despite the fact that they have announced they have completed connections in areas under the rural electrification scheme— to ensure that people in the more remote areas get connected to electricity. Considering they have done such a magnificent job for rural Ireland so far and that people are so well versed and educated in this matter, they should give everybody the opportunity of availing of this great gift. Because of the tremendous emigration from these remote areas many homes are left with one or two old people living in them. These people do not want to go to institutions. They want to stay in their own homes. They would be delighted to have electricity and as a social service, the Government should provide them with it. This might have the added effect of ensuring that these homes will be occupied in the future.

Our population is now on the increase. Emigration is not as widespread as it was previously. People are being educated how to make a living for themselves in their own country. Rural electrification has played a tremendous part in spreading the advancement of the industrial age within our island. Industries are springing up in our smaller towns. These industries play a vital part in the life of the nation. Great credit is due to the ESB for this, because if we lacked electrical facilities and amenities industrialists would be reluctant to build factories. We should lean over backwards to provide electricity where it is not available at present. Even though we might think the cost exhorbitant at present, this cost would be recouped by money saved and in other directions.

Last year taught us a lesson regarding the provision of electricity. I am sure the ESB and the Government have been turning their minds towards some method of generating energy without the excessive use of imported products such as oil. The turf-burning stations were a great advance. Were it not for them and the coal-burning stations, our position last year during those lean months might have been much worse. It is up to the ESB and the Government to ensure that in future we will make better use of our native resources. It has been said that peat and turf may be rather scarce and will be exhausted in the near future. I would be prepared to gamble on that. While the Government may be thinking of erecting huge storage tanks for oil and exploring the possibility of getting oil around our coast, I think the available resources should be utilised. It would provide employment in rural areas and would be a great help to the national economy.

Engineers and architects who design local authority housing will have to take cognisance of the fact that the centrally-heated home is no longer the be-all and end-all of existence on this earth. They will have to provide the old-fashioned fireplaces which use solid fuels. It is too soon yet to get away from the traditional way of life. We should not have all our eggs in one basket.

I do not know much about international treaties, such as the Treaty of Rome and various other EEC Treaties. I thought there was an understanding that some co-operation between member countries would take place. I thought we would help each other whenever difficulties arose, such as during the oil crisis. We in this country experienced a possible threat that we would not get our allotted amount of oil. We were in grave danger of being left in the lurch. The Second World War taught us a lesson in that respect. If that lesson did not sink home, surely this last oil crisis should have taught us another lesson in that respect. The ESB planners will be well-advised to ensure that we have a second or third outlet. They should ensure that we will not be dependent completely, or at least to the extent of 70 per cent or 80 per cent on imported fuel to provide the energy we need to keep our industries and factories working.

Mention was made by the Minister of a nuclear energy plant. This is a matter for the experts. The ESB have given some thought to this. They are the professionals. It might be impertinent of me to venture an opinion on it. I think we should never forget that we are an island here. Irrespective of what might be happening at present or what has happened in the past few years, there should be co-operation between the Six Counties and the rest of Ireland on this matter. I do not know the cost of these nuclear generators or how the Government ought to approach this problem. It is a matter for them to negotiate to have one station serving the whole country.

I remember in my young days as a schoolboy speaking to a Mr. Maguire who was then chief engineer with Bord na Móna. He related how they at that time had been studying the possibility of using the tides along our coasts to provide some type of energy. It seemed the Americans in those days had been taking readings of high tides along the Mexican coast. I am sure that since then statistics have been provided regarding the rise and fall of the tides around our own coast. I am sure they have some data on that. I am not so sure how the costings will work out. There is also the possibility of using the winds to provide power.

It is no wonder that electricity is dear when we throw in thousands and thousands of tons of coal to generate it, especially when we are importing that coal from abroad. Perhaps we have not used our heavy rainfall and our particularly wet climate sufficiently in this respect and perhaps more use could be made of our rivers. Once you had the hydro-plant set up and once the rains came I am sure you would have much cheaper electricity provided in a natural way rather than being dependent on solid fuels.

An experiment has been taking place in the Arigna area where there is a small, thin seam of coal. This has been working for quite a number of years. It has been said that much of the coal mined there is not of a quality to warrant its burning in ordinary open grates and with the difficulty of getting a market against imported coal from Poland, America and England. However, more attention should be paid to any useful type of coal. With modern techniques it probably could be mined cheaply enough to warrant erecting a second coal-burning station on the Arigna coalfield.

I know that coal had been mined in Castlecomer and perhaps the ESB could consider that field also. Irrespective of what the geography books may have said in the past we know that under the skin of our country there seem to be more minerals than we anticipated. If geologists probed a little bit deeper they might find that we are blessed, as they have been in England, where there are coalmines practically in all the whole northern part of the country, with a similar situation here. These are thoughts that should engage the minds of the ESB because they are charged with providing and keeping a service in existence for the benefit of the people in this country.

Scientists in other countries have adverted to the fact that perhaps in the not-too-distant future they may be able to use the enormous energy which the sun can generate. I am sure experiments are going ahead in many countries on this. I am sure, too, that the personnel in the ESB—most of them are top-class engineers and scientists and they do extensive study in this line—have long ago adverted to the fact that much use probably could be made out of this source of energy. I am sure they are working in close harmony with their opposite numbers in other countries in trying to harness solar rays and solar energy.

These are some sources of supply. Naturally they are a very important part of the whole picture, because when we come to talk about the price of electricity the raw material is very important. While we all know that the scarcity of oil is the main factor in the increases which took place in the cost of electricity this year, certainly the cost of the raw material pushed up the price. We are asking them to try to find other means or to augment the present means in some way so as to ensure that this will not happen again and that we will not be caught in the same way as in the past.

The ESB are a tremendously important body. They have pioneered many new schemes and their worth and importance to the city dweller is immeasurable. The same can be said for those who live in rural areas. People now have piped water going into their homes. They are able to instal pumps: farmers are able to milk their cows by electricity. All these modern amenities have been provided because the ESB have been in existence and because the ESB engineers down the years have given some thought to this and have worked in harmony with the Irish people. They are doing a tremendous job.

I have received complaints regarding prices. I know this is a difficult matter at present for the Government. Prices have been escalating out of all bounds and many people are concerned. Many people would be highly perturbed and deeply annoyed if it should come to the stage when they could no longer afford electricity, because, apart from the use they have made of it to eliminate a lot of the drudgery on the farms, they get a fair amount of pleasure from listening to the radio or watching television. It would be too bad if at any time the ESB officials or personnel would have to threaten to cut off or disconnect people or take electricity from them altogether, especially from people who have already enjoyed it. They have known the benefits of it. If they had never had it the story might be different. I would not like to see a situation such as that happening.

The Minister made reference to the fact that he is planning for an increase of 10 per cent. Perhaps it is a modest enough increase. I would like to see our population increasing and our people remaining at home, but I am certain that there is a limit to which people can go as far as prices are concerned. Eventually they will have to choose between a centrally-heated home or one heated from solid fuels. Various things like that will arise and affect the ultimate efficiency of the ESB and their policy of trying to get across to the people the best ways of enjoying a modern life with electricity.

As a trade unionist myself there is one thing I never like to refer to, and that is internal disturbance in an organisation, in particular in a State-sponsored body and one as important and vital to the whole life of the nation as the ESB. People who are working in the ESB are very dedicated people. They have pioneered in the past. It can be a dangerous occupation. Electricity is dangerous even in the home. I am afraid that too many people interfere with wiring and so on. Linesmen and those putting down those huge cables, working underground, boring in such places as Turlough Hill, are all engaged in a very dangerous occupation. There are many hazards and there have been many accidents and many deaths. Many people have given their lives to ensure that the people of Ireland would have this great service. It is only fair to pay them a compliment for their dedication.

At the same time it is also only fair to say that those who are in a very responsible position such as that have a duty to the people of this country. There are many facilities set up already for settling strikes of all sorts, the Labour Court and conciliation. There are various means and ways. In the case of people in key industries such as this every effort should be made and every approach explored so as to ensure that other workers in factories and those in hospitals and other vital situations would not be deprived of this modern magic we have had supplied to us by the ESB.

I welcome the Bill. The people in rural areas say the ESB banished the fairies. If they did, they provided another form of magic for the whole country and have transformed its outlook.

A fair and generous contribution.

I, too, should like to welcome the Bill particularly as an indication of the extraordinary progress the ESB have made over their life of approximately 45 years. It is interesting to recall that the sum of £700 million to which the Minister now speaks of raising the ESB capital is approximately, if my memory is correct, 100 times the cost of the Ard na Crusha scheme in 1927. Normally, to talk of increasing capital requirements from £450 million to £700 million would cause a gasp of astonishment. When one realises the work done by the ESB over the past 40 odd years it is safe to assume, as the Minister does, that over the next six to eight years, their capital requirements of £250 will be exceeded.

The Minister in his opening speech spoke of the possibility of a necessity to cut down on the capital requirements due to the 10 per cent increased demand not being reached. I think he will find that costs will account for it if they continue to escalate at 15 per cent per annum and that his estimate of £250 million will have been on the meagre side. One significant factor which made us sit up and take notice of our energy requirements and their cost has been the fuel scarcity and upsets of the past two years. Like cheap food, we had taken cheap fuel for granted. The world will never again get either commodity cheaply. There may be some easing in the situation. The existing escalating prices for oil may level off. Looking forward to the next 20 to 25 years the costs of fuel of all kinds are likely to increase rather than stabilise.

The Minister and the Government are wise to look for other sources of energy. We have got ourselves into a critical economic and national dilemma by allowing over the past 14 years our requirements of imported oil to increase from 25 per cent in 1960 to over 70 per cent this year. Even if we find new sources of energy in the country and include a nuclear power station, we will still need to import large quantities of oil. The proportion may drop from 70 per cent to 60 or 50 per cent but the total imports of oil, unless we find some oil in our own offshore waters, will still be high and may be in excess of today's figure.

I am pleased that a reappraisal of the turf deposits is to be made by the ESB, but if one is realistic one cannot see either turf or coal providing anything except a small proportion of our total energy requirements. Even a nuclear power station at 600 MW will be only a small proportion of the estimated increase in the total output over the next six to eight years.

The Minister in his speech referred to the £250 million increase raising the total output by some 80 per cent to a figure in excess of 3,200 MW to be increased by a further 1,100 MW in the subsequent two years. Taking a total figure of something in excess of 4,500 MW anything we can produce from our own resources will be quite a small proportion. Unless we find oil offshore we must import oil in vast quantities. This brings up the question of the supply and origin of oil and its refining.

At present we have only one refinery at Whitegate. The refining capacity will have to be increased. This may be outside the scope of the Bill but it is relevant to the question of energy sources. I should like to see the Government and private enterprise making arrangements to set up joint companies in the oil producing countries. Ireland is friendly towards the Middle East and North African countries and we should cash in on this and come to a joint arrangement to provide for long-term supplies of oil. In return we should be able to do a substantial two-way trade. With most of these countries we have a minimal trade. On our side it is hopelessly unbalanced. If an associate company could be formed with countries such as Libya there should be great potential, first, by getting a long-term supply of oil at reasonably stable prices, and secondly by providing a market for the export of Irish produce.

This may be remote from the scope of the Bill but the whole question of energy is being considered. The Government should give consideration to entering into partnership or company arrangements with North Africa and other oil-producing countries.

Senator Dolan mentioned the question of tidal energy. This was raised in both Houses some years ago. There is also the possibility of harnessing wind. The ESB have made some tests in that regard on the north-western coast. This has been done fairly successfully in other countries. We should look into this possibility in view of the fact that we do have mainly constant south-westerly winds and these could be harnessed.

Our water resources are almost exhausted apart possibly from tidal waters. This is unfortunate as water is the cheapest method of producing electricity. I think I am correct in saying that the ESB, in spite of the fact that they have been in existence for over 40 years, are still the cheapest producer of electric current in the State.

I should like to ask the Minister how it is proposed to finance this enormous sum of money. Is there any possibility of getting assistance from EEC sources? As Senator Dolan rightly says, we are a member of the Common Market and one of the attractions held out at the time we campaigned in favour of joining it was the sharing of financial and other resources and mutual help between countries. I think it should be possible, if it has not already been considered, to secure some of the capital requirements for this very substantial scheme from EEC sources.

Other Senators and certainly many Deputies have commented on the very sharp increase in electricity costs following on the sharp increase in the price of oil. It has been a bitter blow, particularly to domestic consumers, and one which has been very strongly resented. It is very hard to understand that such a rapid rise in prices can take place in such a short time. Everything possible should be done to insulate the country from further increases of this size. That can only be done, as the Government are proposing to do, by exploiting the natural sources of energy as much as possible and by making whatever long-term arrangements they can make for the importation of oil from other countries at staple prices. I hope the optimistic estimates of finding oil off our shores will be realised. If it is found it will have a dramatic effect on the whole situation. Instead of being a deficit nation as regards energy sources we could, quite likely, become an exporting nation, exporting energy or products arising from energy. That is a situation which many of us would like to see come about.

We have been talking about importing oil and using coal, possibly our own coal resources, but has the possibility of importing coal from Great Britain been considered? Great Britain still has enormous reserves of coal. It might be easier to do that because we could be certain of a regular source of supply quite close to our own country and we could pay for it in sterling rather than going half way across the world to look for oil supplies. Perhaps there is nothing in this suggestion. Perhaps England has not got the coal to spare but if she has it might be well worth considering the suggestion.

Finally I want to support Senator Dolan in asking the Government to act jointly with our fellow-countrymen in the North of Ireland in the development of not only nuclear but other energy resources. This is something in which fruitful and practical co-operation could take place. Every effort should be made to encourage the two parts of our island to co-operate with one another.

I think the ESB are to be complimented, as are the Northern Ireland Electricity Authority, on the initiative they have shown within the past decade as regards linking up North and South to provide electricity services for all our people. It is a joint enterprise and is one that must be commended. I have no doubt that both the ESB and the Northern Ireland authority will continue that good work.

Any debate about the ESB at the present time naturally centres around the question as to why we have placed so much reliance on imported oil as against other sources of energy. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but if one had the benefit of foresight everything would be perfect. Until two years ago everybody had concluded that oil, apart from being the cheapest source of energy, was the obvious one for generating electricity in this country. We did not foresee anything appearing on the horizon then which would detract from that opinion. The part that world politics have played in the meantime could not have been foreseen by anyone. The ESB, who have shown commendable foresight in regard to their planning programme and their development schemes, could not have foreseen that difficulty either.

The future financing of the ESB is something to which we will have to give much thought, because the greater the demand for electricity the more costly will be the plant that will have to be provided to meet that demand. At present the cost of generating electricity is quite high. Perhaps the only way in which any reduction in the amount of capital that will need to be imported at regular intervals or a reduction in price to the consumer can be achieved is by greater efficiency within the organisation itself. It is good to see that the ESB engineers have come up with some thoughts on the economic viability of lesser quality coal which until recently they did not feel would be a viable proposition for the provision of energy.

The ESB have always commanded a high degree of respect for the efficient manner in which they operate. They have been commended by various bodies, ranging from independent study groups to people such as the World Bank, whom they approached at various times for financial subventions. That efficiency has been reflected in the programme of rural electrification, the North-South electricity links and the studies they have continuously carried out to acquire greater efficiency.

Anyone who travels abroad will conclude that there are very few countries which have such a density of rural dwellings provided with electricity. The rural electrification scheme, when it comes to its conclusion next year, will leave very very few houses without an electricity supply. I would ask the Minister what the situation will then be as regards those remaining dwellings? I know that in the final stages of the rural electrification scheme areas were asked whether they wished to be supplied with electricity. No doubt, as has happened with the previous canvasses, there will be areas which will not opt for a supply. I wonder if the Minister has given any thought to what will happen to those areas in, say, five years' time with increased rural development in the form of new houses and industrial development.

The alternatives to imported oil are, as has been already indicated by the Minister and by other speakers, nuclear energy, natural gas and better utilisation of our hydro and turf resources. As regards the nuclear energy source, I think it will throw off a problem apart from any economic ones it may create, namely, the environmental aspects associated with it. We seem to be running into a certain amount of difficulty as regards the Carnsore Point location for a nuclear power station. There is no doubt that people have taken the ESB for granted for so long that when they find that something associated with the ESB is likely to create environmental problems for them they become disturbed.

I do not know how this problem will be solved because environmental problems are something to which people are paying more and more attention. The difficulties that are arising in the case of Carnsore Point are quite likely to arise at any other location that may be mooted. It is a problem which needs consideration. Perhaps a greater display of the safety factors involved in nuclear stations will make people realise that the danger is not as great as they imagine.

To have natural gas available on the seabed is one thing but to bring it ashore is another matter and a costly one. This is a factor that will have to be taken into account in the provision of electricity supplies in the future. We will have to find out what it will cost to bring the natural gas to the shore and how it compares with buying imported crude oil. No doubt this is something into which the Department will go in greater detail and from which they will draw their own conclusions.

We are of course limited as regards our turf and peat resources and the hydro source seems to be almost exhausted. We owe a debt of gratitude to the ESB for not converting from peatfired stations to perhaps oil-fired stations to the extent to which most people would have said five years ago they should have, when oil was so cheap. We are indebted to them for sticking by their original turf and peat-fuelled stations.

People should be grateful for the quality of the work carried out by the ESB. The 10 per cent annual growth rate at which the ESB have aimed, and exceeded at times over the past decade, is something which any business could well be proud of. The present growth rate, which is very little above 1 per cent, is no doubt only a temporary feature. I am sure the ESB will once again return to their annual growth rate of at least 10 per cent. That is something to which we all look forward.

Unhesitatingly, we all commend this Bill. The money that is required will provide a service which we probably take too much for granted. It is only when we are deprived of that service that we realise how important a part it plays in our lives and that it is worth the money being put into it.

In common with other speakers, I welcome this Bill very warmly. There is no question about the efficiency of the ESB. The only matter of concern is the source of energy for producing power. In the immediate future I am afraid we shall have to turn to natural resources. I had the pleasure of visiting Turlough Hill in County Wicklow. Much as I admired that scheme, I admire much more the person who sold the idea to your Department. It is one thing to have an idea, but it is another thing to sell it to somebody. I spent most of my life selling things and I know what that means.

I am not conversant with the whole country but I am with my own locality. It is my opinion that advantage is not being taken of all our natural resources, such as waterfalls. Maybe due to the physical structure of the country, we have these waterfalls. Down through the centuries mills were powered by water. The Shannon is one of the greatest rivers in western Europe. It has struck me forcibly that possibly there should be more schemes like Turlough Hill on the Shannon. I am not an engineer, but I am sure it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that there could be similar schemes on the Shannon.

With the exception of the Erne, we have not similar sources of power in the north-east. Would it be possible to harness the Erne river, which goes on to Ballyshannon? Of course a much smaller river which does not attract the same amount of interest is the Fane. On my own doorstep we have Lough Mucknoo. There has been talk of draining it for the last 50 years. People have been talking a lot about draining the Shannon. Likewise, there is always talk of draining the Fane. I know of a hill which could be another Turlough Hill, although perhaps not to the same degree of magnitude. At least it would provide a reasonable amount of energy. An engineer from the Department told me that if we succeeded in what we were trying to do with Lough Mucknoo, where there are about 1,000 acres, and this Border river, in which the Northern Ireland Government were also interested, this lake would completely disappear and we would drown half of Armagh. I have no desire to drown anybody—I am only giving this as an illustration—but the water is there. Recently there was an interesting talk on the BBC about Holland. We all know how the Dutch derive their energy—from water and from windmills.

Naturally the increases in ESB charges are annoying; nobody likes increases. However, I am afraid they will be with us for some time. People who are in the course of constructing new houses are very dissatisfied with the ESB. They are making very unreasonable demands on these young people building their own houses. In some cases the installation charges amount to £700 or £800. I think it is unreasonable and I would ask the Minister to look into it.

I do not agree with Senator Dolan on the question of tidal energy. We have no tides worth harnessing. For the foreseeable future the price of coal and oil will be prohibitive and the ESB will have to depend on natural resources. I understand that the Minister for Local Government is making it obligatory on anybody building a house to instal at least one fireplace but he will have to make it two if things continue as they are. I do not want to detain the house any longer. I welcome the Bill and wish the ESB well, but I would ask them to find another Turlough Hill or two.

I, too, should like to join with the other Senators in welcoming this Bill. It is a vote of confidence in the ESB. Since the board's foundation we have taken them for granted but when the oil crisis occurred we realised the cost of our over-dependence on imported fuel. Having listened to the other Senators and to the debate in the other House, I cannot add anything further on the question of looking for our own natural resources and using every available facility to ensure a reduction in the importation of oil. I would suggest, as a matter of urgency, that if fuel must be imported we should import crude oil and have facilities made available for its refining.

The ESB are an organisation that have had many troubles but when the recommendations contained in the various reports have been implemented, I am confident that they will help to solve some of the ESB's troubles. They should be complimented on the manner in which they dealt with the crisis created by the storms of last January.

Some Senators referred to ESB advertisements which advocate centrally-heated homes. Young people who were pressured by these advertisements into installing central heating are now in a difficult situation. I would ask the Minister to discuss with his colleagues in the Government the position regarding centrally-heated local authority houses. Tenants have been affected very much by the sharp increases in fuel prices. Maybe something can be done to help these people.

I welcome this Bill. It is a sign of prosperity and of confidence in the future.

I should like to join with the other Senators in welcoming this Bill and in paying tribute to the high standard of efficiency and performance associated with the ESB in the production of power.

The Minister's speech was a very comprehensive one and gave us an idea of the work ahead, especially the efforts being made to diversify so that we would not find ourselves in the same position as last winter when, with a 70 per cent dependence on imported oil, we were in a very vulnerable position. It is a very difficult situation to remedy. I am glad to see that one of the first schemes announced was the further development of our turf resources. There is quite a substantial projection of turf production, an increase of 160 MW during the next five to seven years or almost 10 per cent of present production. This will mean that turf production, which is at present contributing to 25 per cent of our electricity, will continue even with the growing demand of a projected 10 per cent increase per annum.

We owe a great debt to Bord na Móna and to the ESB engineers who have contributed so much to the development of our turf resources both from the point of view of the generation of power and also of the utilisation of turf and its by-products. The success of Bord na Móna has been the most spectacular achievement in the development of our native resources during the past 50 years

I would suggest that the Minister urge a bold policy in connection with low-grade coal. We can expect further increases in oil prices. Consequently we should not wait until the oil cost curb makes it feasible, to exploit our low grade coal resources. We should be able to see whether there are many other positive aspects of the creation of home industry contained in the development of low-grade coal. For instance, there would be the employment factor and there are many other spin-offs from this industry. I would urge that if the technology is available we should make an act of confidence in the future and proceed with an imaginative programme for the development of our low-grade coal resources.

We all welcome the confirmation of the find of natural gas. Indeed, its size can be gauged from the fact that it is projected that it will give 500 MW in six or seven years, that is one-third of our present production and is a very sizeable contribution. The company who found the gas have doubled their estimate of what is available. In the next few months we will probably hear that this estimate has been doubled again. In short, we are only at the beginning of the utilisation of gas. I hope that in the near future the findings will justify the creation of a national grid to make full use of our gas. I welcome the fact that it will supply the total supply of our nitrogenous requirements. That is something which is very worth while.

Faced with the problem of a 10 per cent per annum increase in our requirements, which would double after seven or eight years, we will need the nuclear arm. I am glad that the Government and the ESB are pressing ahead with the development of a nuclear power station, which I think it is intended to commission by 1982. A 600 MW production is projected for this, roughly the same as what it is hoped to obtain from gas and about one-third of our present output. That is a fairly sizeable contribution by nuclear power. Yet, on the other hand, it will be quite a small station in comparison with the nuclear power stations in other countries. The average nuclear power plants must be three or four times that size. There may be some efficiency gained from increased size.

I do not think we should be satisfied just to supply the home needs. A great export market could be achieved. It is now feasible to export power by direct current to England or the Continent— in short, to the EEC. If the location which is available to us would be suitable for a much larger station than we need and the requirements, such as water, are available, we should find out if our partners in the EEC would be interested in a joint venture in the nuclear energy field, thus enabling us to export nuclear power to Europe. A great deal of the finance for the existing station will have to be borrowed.

This is an export possibility which we should look into seriously. The overpopulated regions of Europe have very few sites on which they can put a nuclear power station. We have many. The ESB have a preference for Carnsore Point. There are many locations along the west coast where conditions are ideal for a nuclear plant. There is not any real hazard attached to a nuclear plant today. There are 150 or so nuclear plants in operation and the safety record is excellent. I would ask the Minister to consider my suggestion and to have it looked into at EEC level as a matter of urgency. I have no doubt that the technology for harnessing tidal power will be developed to the point where it will become competitive.

One aspect of the energy crisis which disturbs me considerably is how quickly we have forgotten about it. It is merely accepted now that there was some type of crisis some time ago. All our good resolutions about economising seem to have vanished. There does not seem to be any drive to cut down on our energy requirements. I should like to see a committee with adequate technical help entrusted by the Government with the duty of trying to cut down on wasteful use of fuel, energy and products made from oil. There is a great need for conservation. Where are all our good resolutions about economising and conservation, the recycling of waste, collection of waste paper, this and all the rest? I understand that the United States have made considerable strides on that front and are keeping up the momentum there. Perhaps we should learn from them and see that waste paper and so on, which is such a headache, is turned into useful national products. I would appeal to the Minister and the Government to try to put more drive behind their efforts in this regard.

The ESB have the greatest concentration of skilled manpower in this country. There has been within the board's staff down the years a very high level of engineering training and engineering performance in utilising the various resources we have and operating hydro stations, turf stations and pump storage stations and dealing with the great complexities of all these. About four or five years ago we had a Bill to facilitate and encourage various speciallist groups within the country to conserve on a world scale. There was a great need for such talent in many countries and there was quite a remunerative market for such services.

When we were passing that Bill I thought the ESB and Bord na Móna would be naturals for a big development in that field. I am not aware that there has been any real spectacular development. I know certain officers are occasionally sent on secondment to carry out tasks in other countries.

The time has come to ask the ESB to push ahead rapidly with that phase of their work. The excellent concentration of technical talent in the ESB is a very good thing but if they become frustrated by lack of opportunities for the development of their creativeness and their engineering skills they lose a great deal of their value to us. We can guard against that if we make them available on a world scale to do similar pioneering work in other countries. African countries and many others are crying out for such skills and services. We have it and should press ahead and use it.

We have a great capacity here for getting very emotional about a crisis when it occurs. We have all sorts of resolutions about what we will do about it but when the crisis blows over we forget them. There was another crisis in the ESB before the fuel one. It was a more serious one. It was the strike crisis. We cannot be happy about the situation—this is a giant company with enormous resources and essential to the everyday life of the country— where the strike weapon was used during the past couple of years. The public have a right to protection from such, even if it means having to pay extra to get that protection. It is fundamentally wrong that any small group in a major industry can hold the whole country to ransom by means of a strike. I do not know the answer, but the Government would have the full backing of all the citizens in any steps that would be taken to ensure that a repetition of the strikes would not be allowed to occur. The public are anxious and willing to pay a price to ensure this, particularly as we are today increasing the resources available to the ESB. We are making them a larger company, a greater giant in our midst. Is it safe to do that? If we cannot control it should we—perhaps it is not feasible—diversify it? Should we ensure that all the control is not under the one group? We should ensure that the striking unit cannot paralyse the whole system.

These are the real difficulties we face in the future in placing so much of the necessaries of life under the control of one single company. Perhaps the Minister could reassure us that steps are being taken to ensure that the strike crisis will not recur. The strike crisis occurred only 11 months ago.

Less. We had all those blackouts. We have forgotten about that too. The public memory is very short-lived. I should like to see more positive control of the ESB. We have looked many times for an Oireachtas Committee to deal with semi-State bodies. The Government indicated their willingness to experiment along these lines. The time has now arrived for such an experiment. I should like to see the Minister giving us some hope that we may see such a committee shortly to deal with the ESB. It would make for greater involvement of the Oireachtas in the running of semi-State bodies.

I welcome this opportunity to say a few words on this Bill. It is a vote of confidence in the ESB that the Government have increased ESB resources from £450 million to £750 million. This is understandable with the ever-increasing need we have for current.

Senator Quinlan finished on what I consider to be the most important aspect—labour relations within the ESB. We wish for good labour relations there. Perhaps in the past we have not done all that was necessary to ensure that good labour relations obtained within the industry. It is fairly obvious that they did not always obtain to everybody's satisfaction and this has been apparent through those strikes. The ESB are in a privileged position as a result of having a monopoly of power for the whole country and they also have a huge responsibility. They have responsibility to people in every walk of life, whether in their jobs, in factories, on farms or sick in hospital. They all depend to a great extent on the ESB. Anything we say here to emphasise that are words well used.

No one wants to suggest that the right to strike should be removed, that people would not continue to have a right to improvement and betterment of their conditions of employment; but this industry is so important that it ought not to be beyond the bounds of possibility for all the people concerned —workers, management, the Government—to come to an agreement which would ensure that people employed in the industry have reasonable and proper access to betterment of their conditions of employment. As a result of that the public will not be deprived of this absolutely essential service for which they are paying well. I thoroughly endorse what Senator Quinlan has said on that. It needs to be said. We ought to consider the matter very seriously not when a strike is imminent but when things are running smoothly, so ensuring that they run smoothly in the future.

It is only right to welcome this Bill. In the past the ESB have done a great job for this country. It is correct to say that there is probably no other country as well served with power in rural areas as we are. The country owes a debt of gratitude to the ESB and the people who have worked so diligently in that body over the years.

There is still, unfortunately, a number of people who have not been supplied with current. Perhaps it is easy to say that they are in very isolated areas. Some of them are not so isolated. Some of them are depending on the goodwill of their neighbours or on the lack of common sense of their neighbours who did not in the past accept power and even still may not be inclined to. That rules out people who were anxious to have it in the past, who are still anxious to have it and who up to now have not been able to get it.

I know that very many of those problems have been solved. It was suggested that after next March we would still have 2 per cent of the people without current. It is not a big amount but it is big if you happen to be one of the people concerned. There are some who are concerned in that way. I know some of them are isolated in the sense that they will not continue to be occupied there, but there are some places where business will be carried on, particularly at farm level, for the foreseeable future. It is not a practical proposition to charge them the huge amount they would have to pay to be connected to the ESB, bearing in mind that the ESB have been subsidised over the years by all of the taxpayers to supply to less isolated areas than those. Those few people who are still without electricity have paid their fair share of that taxation. When we have got it down to 2 per cent we will have to have another look at it to see what further can be done to alleviate the hardships that some people have had to endure for so long. I am sure the Minister will give those few people who will be left his very sympathetic consideration.

As one Senator already has said, the days of cheap fuel and cheap food are gone. That is true. They are gone for a number of reasons. Perhaps up to now people did not consider what were, in fact, the necessities of life. They were something they should have to provide themselves with. They felt that the onus was on the public at large to provide them with the necessities of life. This was a wrong outlook to have taken. Those countries and those people who are producing the raw materials have become more alive to their importance in the world and they are tending now to charge a more realistic rate for what they have to offer. Those things are food, fuel and energy, and we will have to go along with those things.

I welcome the suggestion by the Minister that the ESB propose to use our native resources to the full. Very many of those native resources that we had were not economic to use in the past because of costs of imports not being as high as they are. Many of them can be used now. A very big proportion of our country is covered by bog. Those are areas where there is very little employment. If they are developed, and I sincerely hope they will be, it will give very necessary employment in those areas not alone for the time they are being used for the production of energy in the form of fuel but in the years to come after that when those areas can be used for agricultural purposes. They will add considerably to our pool of agricultural land.

Referring once again to rural electrification, I think a good job has been done and, as I have said already, most houses have been connected. It is true, though, to say that at the time the connections were made, people were looking for very little more than light on the farm and light in their houses. We have advanced a long way since then, and on farms in particular there is need for very much more power now than there was then. In very many cases the power that is available on farms is not sufficient to meet the modern needs with regard to milking machines, coolers and all the various equipment such as water pumps that you have on farms.

I know the ESB do things as well as they can to meet the demand as it occurs; but it is accepted that when farmers cannot get a piece of modern equipment because they do not have the power on the farm, they use this as an excuse for not getting it. They do a disservice to themselves and to the nation. The push should come from the other side. We should have the ESB in a position to push sales. If we had two or three ESBs and we had competition within the trade I do not think anybody would be left in a position to say: "Well, you know I cannot get this because I have not got power."

The ESB should be in a position to go out and sell current, and I do not mean to waste current. It has been said here already that we have forgotten about the days of the shortages and we have forgotten that we ought to economise. We ought to economise certainly, we ought not to waste, but we ought to use power where it can be used productively, and certainly on the farm it can be used productively in modern farming methods. It should be more readily available on farms and the ESB should try in so far as they can to set themselves to make power more readily available more quickly and to push the sale of that power on farms. It would be in everybody's interests if this were done.

I do not propose to say much more on this subject but at the same time I should like once again to emphasise what Senator Quinlan finished on, that is, labour relations within the ESB. This is important. Everybody in the country depends on it to a greater or lesser degree. An extra special effort should be made by all of the people concerned in the industry and the Government to ensure that strikes will not happen in the future. When a strike happens it has to be fixed— people have to come together and iron out their problems. In this particular industry the problems ought to be ironed out before strike action is taken and I am sure the Government would have the goodwill and support of everyone in the country if they could ensure that this will happen in the future.

Finally, I should like to welcome this Bill and to compliment the ESB on having done a good job over the years. I am sure that, with the sanction of money that is available to them now and with the goodwill of the people and the Government towards fixing good labour relations, we can confidently look forward to progress in the future.

I, too, take this opportunity to welcome the Bill and to agree that extra capital should be made available: £700 million might be sufficient now but in the distant future it may not be sufficient. I imagine that if the Minister had to come back here after five or six years, another Bill would be welcomed increasing that amount.

I should like to support the contributions of Senators Whyte and Quinlan and to speak for just a few minutes on the strike situation. Over the past number of years, as Senator Quinlan has said, the nation has been held up to ransom by the strikes that have taken place by a few people. Maybe ten or 12 people held up the country to ransom and this situation should not be allowed to happen again. I would suggest to the Minister that he would ask representatives of the ESB to sit down to formulate some kind of a board within the ESB and that all the unions within the ESB should be represented on that board so that consultation would take place immediately the strike was introduced. Consultation is necessary at all times. If anything is happening that would create a danger, then consultation should take place.

The Minister for Labour is to introduce a Bill to help unions to amalgamate. I agree that this should be done as soon as possible. There are too many small unions at present. I should like the Minister for Transport and Power to make known the wishes of Senators to the Minister for Labour to have this Bill introduced speedily. We should have larger unions which could meet at Labour Court level to discuss their problems before a strike takes place. The cost of a strike cannot be estimated; it must be costly on the State and on those concerned. If there is a strike in the ESB, the aged and infirm suffer most. During consultation this should be brought to the notice of the proper authorities. Those people deserve all the assistance they can get and this is one way in which to do it. Let them consult and communicate with each other and then there will be fewer strikes.

I should like to take this opportunity to congratulate the workers in the ESB for their great work after the storm during January last. Within a few weeks we were back to normal. Anyone who travelled through the country, especially in the south, during that time could not imagine we would be back to normal in so short a time. These workers are to be congratulated on their efforts. They worked night and day to restore power to the country.

Before speaking on the subject of supplying electricity to rural areas, I should like to state that it is time the ESB insisted on having posters removed from ESB poles throughout the country. In my area during the local government elections posters were put up by each party and the town was a disgrace. Within two days all posters were taken down by ESB workers. I congratulate them even though I am a member of one of the parties involved in the election. I hope the same will happen in the future as towns are disgraced by posters stuck on poles and left there until the ESB eventually remove them. It is more difficult to take them down after weeks than to take them down the day after they are put up. I should like to ask the Minister to look into this matter with a view to getting the ESB to have posters removed sooner.

I must again congratulate the ESB on the canvass being carried out on rural electrification, but I am not totally in agreement. Every house in the country should be canvassed even if it is difficult to reach. Everyone in the country is entitled to equal opportunities. People in out-of-the-way places are being penalised. Old age pensioners in the towns and cities get free electricity and television. Those living in the remote areas do not get these amenities. Even if it costs the State some extra millions of pounds we should get the opportunity to help those people. After next March only 2 per cent of householders will be without electricity. Some of these may refuse to have electricity in their homes but they will be few. When rural electrification was first introduced many people refused it because they did not realise its value. This is not the case now and all those who are canvassed should be told of the advantages to be derived rom electricity.

There is some confusion in the dairy industry in connection with the extra charge being imposed for the installation of extra electrical fittings needed for the milking of cows, to cool the milk in bulk tanks and all the extra work involved. There has been a canvass by representatives of the creameries of the farmers for quality milk. The only method for producing quality milk is to have water, cooling and the right method of producing this milk. It is not possible to have these three things without the required amount of electric current. I have been approached on a number of occasions to use whatever influence I have with the ESB, which is very little, to get extra electrical supplies into those houses so that the farmers may have the full benefit for their produce. More than one-third of the farmers are not getting the full price for their produce because it is not quality produce. The reason for this in the majority of cases is because they have not the proper facilities. They should have the means to cool the milk and hold it over until it is collected.

The ESB have a part to play while the rural electrification canvass is taking place. There should be an inspection at the same time of the areas which have already got electricity. With the representations that have already been made by the societies involved and with the representations that have been made by the people in the area, the officers of the ESB in those areas should know by now what is needed to allow the farmers to get the full benefit of their produce and the State to export quality products.

We are now in a situation where products can be sold at a maximum price. Cheese is getting a price that we never believed it would make. Quality products make quality cheese. You cannot sell anything but a quality cheese. The market is there to take up all the cheese that can be made, but unless we can give the product required by the wholesaler we will lose out. Not alone the farmer but the State itself will lose out. If we could export sufficient to improve our balance of payments position and get money into the State for reinvestment we would be on the right road. The only way to do that is to give us the electric power needed.

I should also like to take this opportunity of thanking the Minister for what he achieved during the oil crisis. Representations were made to him during the oil crisis by the concerns producing perishable products to ensure that they would get the required amount of fuel. He guaranteed them that they would get it. I should like to thank him for that.

This matter of the extension of the capital of the Electricity Supply Board is something which, we all accept, is vital to the economy of the nation. It is something which we look forward to as a means of enabling an expansion in the generating capacity of the ESB stations. The Minister refers to the possible use of lower-grade fuels, natural gas and nuclear power for the purpose of generating electricity. In a nation as small as ours, so stripped of its rural population where people are rushing to live in the cities and reneging the call to rural life, where they are fleeing from the countryside to congregate in Dublin, Cork, Galway and the other larger centres of population, it would behove all of us to look seriously at utilising electricity to bring about a more even balance of population, which would be more acceptable from a national point of view.

No better means could be found towards that end than if the Minister were to have an effort made in the counties of Longford, Roscommon and Leitrim to harness the coal and peat resources there. The peat resources in Longford, Roscommon and Westmeath should be used for the generation of electricity on a more extended and expanding scale than hitherto. I know there is a generating station in Roscommon which gives a considerable amount of employment. It has an output comparable to that of the peatfired station at Lanesboro. In that area of rural Ireland an effort is being made to utilise our natural resources to give the people increased electricity supplies. The coal in the Arigna area and other areas of north Roscommon and west Leitrim is of a quality that was not as acceptable for commercial use as the imported product. The Minister should look at the extent to which he and the Government could develop the use of this coal, create more employment and provide electricity generating plants in that area, making full use of a first-class natural product.

We have to meet the electricity needs of the teeming thousands in our centres of population, but we owe an equal obligation to the young pair who want to found a home in rural Ireland. It is tragic to have to comment that the ESB place an advertisement in a local paper indicating that current can be extended to a particular rural area on a subsidised basis, but if you are not in at the stage when this subsidised extension is being provided the cost of bringing electricity any distance or of procuring a connection at all is prohibitive.

I do not blame the ESB, but this is a reality of life. We should have constant consideration, and rightly so, for the thousands in the cities. We should have similar consideration for the young people in rural Ireland. Young people are getting married every year as well as the year the ESB decide to have electricity subsidised for a particular area. It would be a more appropriate method if the Government were to make a certain subsidy available at all times in rural Ireland for the connection of new homes. We should take a very serious look at this. I appeal to the Minister to recognise that we must have water, sewage and a house itself. Subsidies are paid by the Government. There are subsidies for roads. But unless you come in on the tide in regard to the ESB current connections, you must pay through the nose for everything. Today more than ever some help is needed.

Since 1924 the Electricity Supply Board have been an ever-growing factor in the progress of our industry. At this stage the ESB should not be curtailed or inhibited in any way. The further development of electricity, whether generated from gas, nuclear power, coal, or peat, is to be welcomed. It should be fostered and advanced.

The Minister and the Government are to be complimented on the Bill. However, the ESB are not the prerogative of this Government. Previous Governments have had the same interest in the ESB and I hope every Government to come will continue to have an interest in developing electricity for the benefit of agriculture and industry.

I welcome the Bill and hope that the fruits of the proposals in the Bill will have the same good results as have been attendant on the Electricity Supply Board's efforts up to now.

I should like to express my appreciation of the constructive suggestions put forward and of the recognition by all sides of the House of the value of the ESB to the economy and of how important the ESB have been to the economy since their foundation. By accepting this Bill, we are looking forward ten or 12 years, when it is hoped this £250 million will be spent on further development of the ESB.

From time to time everybody is irritated by the size of the ESB bill, perhaps by the quality of workmanship, or maybe by the way we are treated in the ESB offices. However we all appreciate that the stream which bore our advancing economy towards the sea was the ESB. We all floated on that. As Senator Kilbride said, without the ESB it would have been impossible to make advances in the fields of industry, agriculture and the economy generally.

Rural electrification, which has been a source of irritation, has been referred to by a few Senators. It has been enormously complex in its planning and execution. It has also been enormously expensive to the Exchequer. As I said in my opening speech, it has cost the Exchequer and the taxpayers £21 million. We are not finished with this phase of the rural electrification scheme. As I said in my speech, in the last financial year, that is up to 31st March, 1974, it cost £4 million to pay the subsidy on rural electrification. In a small country this is no small sum. It is quite a mark of commitment on behalf of the Government.

Again, as Senator Kilbride said, it is not the prerogative of any one Government. It has been a commitment of all Governments to bring modern amenities—the first of which is electricity—to as large a volume of people as possible. When the rural electrification scheme comes to a close at the end of March, 1975, there will be only 2 per cent of the people without electricity. Senator Whyte referred to this when he said it was unique in Europe, and it is. It is unique in Europe or in any country that 98 per cent of houses are wired for electricity. We do not appreciate that at times. We do not appreciate the necessary commitment on behalf of the Government to provide the money to subsidise the ESB to instal electricity in this large number of houses. We do not appreciate the amount of planning required at all levels of the ESB to see that this is carried through. We do not appreciate the amount of physical work that had to be done. We do not appreciate the acceptance by urban taxpayers of the necessity to do this work and their willingness to provide the money to see that their rural neighbours can enjoy the same facilities as they do.

I have asked the ESB—I expect to have the report before the end of this month or perhaps later—to try to identify for me what problems will remain in regard to the 2 per cent. Senator Kilbride and, I think, Senators Butler and Brennan referred to what will be one of the problems: the high cost of installing electricity in new houses in what are closed areas. Another problem will be the connection of existing houses. As the rural electrification scheme went back over areas again and again, sometimes three and four times, the houses that were left were those in the most remote areas and which, therefore, cost the most money to connect. Next year we will be left with the most difficult and most expensive houses to connect. These are some of the problems that will arise, I do not know what the others are. I have asked the ESB to try to identify them and to present a report to me as soon as possible.

I should like to refer to what Senator Brennan said about "selling all his life". He would know the kind of trouble he would get into if he sold below cost for long periods. This is something the ESB cannot do either. They must provide rural electrification and yet balance their expenses with their revenue. Otherwise they would get into the same trouble as an ordinary business would. They must, by law, balance their books year by year. They must fix their revenue to meet their expenditure, taking one year with another. It is something we shall have to look at again.

Senator Russell referred to the figure of £7 million—I am not sure if he is right—for the establishment of Ardnacrusha. I would have thought it was even less than that. The criterion and the form of book-keeping for the ESB at the time of their foundation in 1927 may have been all right then, but with the much vaster, more complex and sophisticated accounting methods employed today we would have to look at that figure again.

The ESB are a very complex, far-flung and many-faceted organisation. They have to build their own generating plant. They must generate the electricity, distribute it and make the connections for it. In former times the ESB had to and still do encourage people to use the electricity by establishing and stocking retail premises to supply electrical appliances. I do not think we can ask such an organisation to balance their revenue against expenditure in one year. There will have to be a longer period of time allowed and a more flexible approach to the ESB finance in the future.

Senator Dolan referred to the ESB as advancing the interests of the ordinary people of Ireland. That sums up the whole story of the ESB. It, more than any other organisation, more than the road programme or tourism, has brought modern living to people in remote areas. I know houses which are anything up to 30 miles from any place which, even at its most flattering might be called a town and they are connected to electricity. They have milking parlours, televisions and telephones. This is a most unusual situation in the most advanced countries of Europe. We should be thankful to Governments which have seen the necessity to provide money for it and to the ESB who have provided the connections.

A number of Senators made reference to our overdependence on oil in the energy crisis. I cannot say, if I had been Minister for Transport and Power when this dependence was increased from 25 per cent in 1960 to 75 per cent in 1974, that I would have made any other decision or have given any other advice to the ESB. Senator Markey referred to this. What else would you have done, with oil being almost given away by the oil-producing nations for years at prices which made it cheaper for us to import our oil, not through the Suez Canal which was closed, from the Gulf States and generate electricity at a price which was cheaper than the cost of generating electricity from our own turf resources with generating stations in the middle of Ireland? What else would a Government or an electricity authority do in those circumstances, but to continue to buy oil. The benefits of cheap electricity for industrial expansion and as a low-cost fuel for export manufacturing industry was of inestimable value to the economy as a whole.

It was perhaps, as Senator Markey said, a pity we did not have hindsight. There was also the consideration that turf bogs are thought to have a limited life and as a reserve fuel it was necessary not to use them too quickly and exhaust this valuable and as was thought only native source of fuel. At the time 1 per cent of our electricity generation was done by coal. There was no known gas or oil on the Continental Shelf. In those circumstances I believe the Government did the right thing in encouraging the ESB to buy oil as cheaply as possible.

Up to last October the ESB very successfully played one supplier against another throughout world markets, without entering into contracts with one or the other, and succeeded in getting oil at a price of £7 a tonne. This is roughly one-fifth of the present equivalent. They were paying about £4 per tonne below the going rate then by having very good contracts to offer and by getting suppliers to go into competition with each other in order to have the electricity board in Ireland as one of their customers.

That situation has of course changed now. The ESB must pay a very much more realistic price on the world market now. This is why the Government allowed the ESB to put the fuel surcharge on every bill in the hope that the price of oil might drop, but I would not be optimistic about that. The oil producing nations do not need to sell their product now. They have realised its value for political reasons and as a source of energy for the whole world. They know the panic which can be generated throughout the world in big industrial nations when this source of supply is threatened. They know they have sufficient cash earned in the last six months and therefore they do not have to bring down the price.

What may bring down the price in some years hence is if alternative sources of energy are available in other places such as the North Sea oil for England and, le cúnamh Dé, in the Celtic Sea. Certainly a gas find in the Celtic Sea, though small, is significant in value, but it is not the answer to our dependence on oil as a source of energy in the future. As Senator Russell said, we will still have to import vast quantities of oil.

Senator Butler said he hoped I would come back here in some years' time looking for another £250 million, I would be welcome. There are two reasons why we should come back looking for more money. One is because the rate of inflation is such that the £250 million will not last as long as it is anticipated it will. I should not like to have to come back for that reason. The other reason for which I should like to come back is that this economy will advance at such a rate that there is a necessity to keep on installing more generating plants to supply the energy to run the industries, thus necessitating my return to provide more capital for the ESB to expand.

I cannot see the fuel charge on the electricity bills being removed for some time. I do not think the price of oil will drop to allow us to do that. This is a shock for consumers. I am extremely sorry it had to happen. The price of our electricity is still competitive. We are still comewhat below other countries in Europe. However it is still a shock for people when they see a bill with a fuel surcharge which is sometimes 35 per cent or 40 per cent of the total bill. It would have been unrealistic of the Government not to have allowed the ESB to put this charge on the bills. The ESB were buying oil last September/ October for £7 per tonne. They are now paying £35 per tonne. To pretend the choice was (a) not to let them buy it or say they should wait until it became cheaper would mean, with our dependence on oil, no electricity; or (b) ask those using it to pay for it and hope that people would conserve their use of energy and bring their own bills down.

There is no doubt we have been profligate in our use of energy of all sorts. Centrally-heated houses with the windows open and the temperature at 75 degrees is not a sensible use of an extremely expensive and what was then a scarce fuel, neither is having radiators on in rooms which are not used. On several occasions I have advocated ways of saving money by the more sensible use of energy resources.

Senator Quinlan said he thought we had forgotten our conservation policy. That is not so. The conservation policy initiated by the Department of Transport and Power last winter, in conjunction with the Institute for Industrial Research and Standards, has been and continues to be most successful. Many industries—it is primarily aimed at the industrial sector —have asked for advice from experts from the Institute for Industrial Research and Standards as to how they could reduce costs. I quoted an example in the Dáil last week, and I repeat it here now, of an industry about which I was told by the Institute for Industrial Research and Standards. The Institute were able to point out to a modern plant how to reduce their costs and energy by 10 per cent. If that could be done in a modern, recently-established industry, you can imagine the dramatic savings that could be achieved in older, less efficient, less well-organised industries.

This scheme is still there. There are grants available from this Department, the Industrial Development Authority and from the Institute for Research and Standards to industries to help them more efficiently to use their energy. If Senators have influence with industries who do not know of these schemes, who are not availing of them or of advice from the Institute for Industrial Research and Standards on the conservation of energy, they should bring them to their notice. It is very important for the industries own sake that their costs should be lowered as it helps them export. It is important to the country because the less energy they use the lower will be our importation bill for oil. This will help our balance of payments problem which is going to be severe this year. There is no point in hiding this. Because of the increased price of oil we shall have to meet a very much larger bill for energy sources in this current financial year, from April to December.

It will require all the efforts of the Government to help to balance this as much as possible. Because of the crisis, traumatic conditions have been experienced in Great Britain and Europe which are our principal export markets. The lack of confidence in some of these markets may interfere with our exports. Tourism, cannot be looked at as enthusiastically as perhaps two or three months ago. We want our credits, such as conservation, on the other side to help our balance of payments.

I should like to draw attention to how successful the ESB have been with regard to planning. The figures were quoted by Senator Quinlan when he said that a growth rate of 10 per cent per annum means a doubling of the capacity every seven or eight years. Any variation on this, of course, throws the mechanism out of order as far as the ESB are concerned. They have been significantly successful in being able to provide, when it was wanted, sufficient electricity for the country. This showed quite remarkable foresight and planning on their part. This is one of the reasons why they are now asking for and want to establish nuclear energy stations, even though they will not come on stream until 1980 or 1982. The first is to be a 600 megawatt station. It will take up the growth in demand between now and then with the other things that are planned. It is geared to co-operation between the ESB and the Northern Ireland Electricity Board. Senator Dolan, Senator Brennan and Senator Markey referred to this. That co-operation is there already: there is an arrangement. The nuclear energy station in the Republic is designed and timed to come on stream first to serve both parts of the country through the interconnecting link with a second one being established in the North.

The reverse procedure will operate in the 1990s with another station being established in the South. They have been planning together and connecting their two programmes of generation establishment to see that the whole 32 counties is provided for on a proper basis. This, perhaps, is something of which people were unaware but it is very valuable both from the point of view of the ESB and the Northern Ireland Electricity Board to have this co-operation.

Senator Russell, Senator Quinlan and Senator Murray referred to the nuclear energy station at Carnsore Point. Senator Quinlan said that perhaps we could raise capital in Europe and at the same time arrange markets for the export of electricity. This is an attractive idea. The amount of capital involved in a nuclear energy station and the amount of employment it gives are very much out of balance. If we could raise the kind of capital required to double the size, when initially it will cost between £100 million and £150 million, from the point of view of employment inside the country we would get very much better value. I agree that there is a number of very suitable sites.

I was suggesting that the EEC money should do it.

Yes, if we could get the money. If we could borrow money at all we should try to borrow it to establish industries here where there would be a higher employment content than there would be in a nuclear energy station. Of course there is still a loss in the transmission of electricity between one point and another. This is one of the reasons why the ESB are keener to establish a station at the Carnsore Point area than at a point in the west where the transmission distances are greater. This has not been cured yet. I look forward to the day, for many reasons, when people will be able to buy six packets of electricity and take them home with them. This would remove the poles and the wires. The snag about electricity is that it cannot be stored. You must have enough generation capacity to meet peak demands between 1 o'clock and 2 o'clock in the day. This is the value of Turlough Hill, as referred to by Senator Brennan and Senator Dolan.

Turlough Hill adds to the generating capacity during the day by dropping the water through the turbines and generating electricity. That is then pumped up into the reservoir at night when the demand for electricity is not so great. It then generates more electricity by being dropped down at the peak demand time. If somebody could invent a way of storing electricity it would halve the necessity for generating plants. I am afraid that day is a long way off. Somebody will probably come up with an idea. I do not think I will ever see that day. At the moment I must deal with things as they are and not as I would like them to be.

The European grid—you could do a certain amount of equalisation then.

You would have a certain amount of equalisation in the European grid, but we would have the added disadvantage of having to take electricity to the nearest point from, say, Carnsore Point, which would be roughly 400 miles by under-sea cables.

But direct current transmission is a possibility? That reduces the loss. I think the situation is worth looking into, anyway.

I shall have a look at it. My first reaction to what you said, Senator, was that if we could get money to invest in industry here, it would provide more employment. Also, there is a loss in transmission and there would be the technical problems of getting electricity to the European grid. I will discuss it with the ESB. My first, very amateurish layman's outlook on it is that if I could get that kind of money, £150 million, I could establish a number of industries.

I was looking at it more from the point of view of——

I must remind Senator Quinlan that this is not a round-table seminar but a concluding speech on a Second Stage debate.

Thank you for the idea, anyway, Senator. Senator Kerrigan again came back to the point about prices and ESB bills. Night storage heaters were offered by the ESB over a number of years to customers for the same reason. If electricity could be sold during the night, that helps to pay for the plant. There was a certain limit however, below which they could not go, a certain basic cost for electricity which had to be met at night storage rates. When the surcharge on oil commenced, that was a basic charge also which was subject to monitoring and to policing by the National Prices Commission in a retrospective way. This had to be applied at a flat rate over all consumption. We could not differentiate between electricity used at night, which was at a basic rate and that used in the daytime at a profitable rate. Even so, the cost of night storage heating was much cheaper than the cost of other forms of heating or even electricity used during the day.

It was suggested there should be a subsidy to people in local authority houses, which are centrally heated by electricity. This at first consideration would seem to be necessary, but there is no reason to suppose that everybody in a local authority house is in more need of subsidy than those in suburban housing estates who are finding the charges for electric central heating just as expensive as people in local authority houses.

I cannot see why only those with central heating generated by electricity should be subsidised. Why not gas also? The price of gas has risen enormously as well. The cost of central heating oils has also risen enormously. We then go into the whole merry-go-round of subsidy and where do we stop? These charges are extremely high. I regret them very much. I wish I could promise the House that they would be coming off in the near future. Regrettably, I do not. We will have to live with higher charges for energy. We are finished with cheap food and cheap fuel.

Senator Whyte and Senator Butler made a point about electricity for bulk milk tanks. Originally the only need for electricity in rural areas was for lighting. Since then there has been a demand for milking parlours, for cooling tanks and so on. Appliances of this sort encouraged—and in many cases grants were given by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and the local creameries—increased use of electricity; but, unfortunately, growth in demand for such equipment and the final stages of rural electrification coincided. This placed a tremendous strain on the ESB workers who had to instal this equipment. Whereas some of the equipment is on single-phase wiring which was already connected to houses there was the necessity to put in transformers to strengthen that supply to meet the demand. Farmers did not realise this. They ordered the bulk tanks and had them installed and then went to the ESB and asked them to connect them. Things did not work that way, particularly as the rural electrification was going on.

It would have been better if there had been more consultation. This is happening now because the ESB are engaged in discussion with An Foras Talúntais, the Dairy Industrial Technical Study and Working Party, ICMSA and the IFA to try to contain this explosion in bulk milk tanks so that farmers will not be misled into thinking that a bulk tank ordered today will be installed and working tomorrow. For the benefit of the ESB, the creameries and the farmers themselves there will be co-ordinated efforts to see that the ESB are ready to provide the power when the farming community instal the cooler or whatever equipment it may be. In the past there has been some delay in connecting these links. I would hope, with the realisation on everybody's part that there is a certain amount of planning needed, those delays will be eliminated in the future.

I hope I have covered all the points raised by the Senators. I should like to thank them for their reception of this Bill and particularly for their appreciation of the ESB and the important part it plays in all our lives and in the industrial development of this country.

Question put and agreed to.
Agreed to take remaining Stages today.
Bill put through Committee, reported without amendment, received for final consideration and passed.