Central Electricity Generating Board
|Headquarters||London, United Kingdom|
|Area served||England and Wales|
|References: Broken up into National Grid Company, National Power, Powergen and later Nuclear Electric.|
Because of its origins in the immediate post-war period, when electricity demand grew rapidly but plant and fuel availability was often unreliable, most of the industry saw its mission as to provide an adequate and secure electricity supply, or "to keep the lights on" as they put it, rather than necessarily pursuing the cheapest generation route.
The CEGB was created from the Central Electricity Authority (which in turn had replaced the British Electricity Authority) in 1957. The Electricity Council was also created at that time, as a policy making body for the Electricity Supply Industry.
Under the nationalised structure, the CEGB was responsible for electricity generation in England and Wales, whilst in Scotland electricity generation was carried out by the South of Scotland Electricity Board and the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board.
The organisation was unusual in that most of its senior staff were professional engineers, but with excellent support in financial and risk-management areas.
Some people feel that it represented the best of Government planning, others feel that it had become a monolith that exemplified the worst aspects of central planning, and was ripe for reform. It is probably the case that, in its most successful period, up until the mid-1970s, it was managed in a way broadly comparable to large private-sector energy majors such as BP, but that it was late to respond to the changed pattern of energy growth following the second oil crisis.
The CEGB was established by section 2 of the Electricity Act 1957. It consisted of a Chairman and between 7 and 9 members appointed by the Minister of Power as having experience or capacity in "the generation or supply of electricity, industrial, commercial or financial matters, applied science, administration, or the organisation of workers"
The Board was under a duty to develop and maintain an efficient, co-ordinated and economical system of supply of electricity in bulk for all parts of England and Wales, and for that purpose to generate or acquire supplies of electricity and to provide bulk supplies of electricity for the Area Boards for distribution by those Boards. It also had power to supply bulk electricity to the Scottish Boards or electricity undertakings outside Great Britain.
Control of the National Grid
At the centre of the CEGB's infrastructure was the National Control Room of the National Grid located in London, which was part of the control hierarchy for the system at that time. There were also both Area and District Grid Control Rooms, which were originally located at Newcastle upon Tyne, Leeds, Manchester, Nottingham, Birmingham, St Albans, East Grinstead and Bristol. The shift Control Engineers who worked in these control rooms would cost, schedule and load dispatch an economic commitment of generation to the main interconnected system (the 400/275/132kV network) at an adequate level of security. They also had information about the running costs and availability of every power producing plant in England and Wales. It was, at these control centres that they would constantly anticipate demand, monitor and instruct the power stations to either produce or reduce electricity production, or stop producing electricity altogether. They used what was known as the "merit order" which established a system of ranking each generator in the power stations based upon how much they cost to produce electricity. The objective was to ensure that electricity production was always achieved at the lowest possible cost.
Research and development
The CEGB had an extensive R&D section with its three principal laboratories at: Leatherhead (Central Electricity Research Laboratories, CERL); Marchwood Engineering Laboratory (MEL); and, Berkeley Nuclear Laboratories (BNL). There were also at one time, five regional facilities. These Scientific Service Departments had a base in each Region. A major SSD role was solving engineering problems with the several designs of 500MW units. These were a significant increase in unit size and had many teething problems, most of which were solved to result in reliable service and gave good experience towards the design of the 660MW units.
In the 1970s and 1980s for the real-time control of power stations, the CEGB R&D team developed the Cutlass programming language and application system. The program is being replaced in favour of the modern Advanced Plant Management System (APMS) - a SCADA solution developed in partnership by RWE npower (a descendant company of CEGB), and Thales UK.
The present electricity market in the UK was built upon the breakup of the CEGB into four separate companies in the 1990s. Its generation (or upstream) activities were transferred to three generating companies - 'PowerGen', 'National Power', and 'Nuclear Electric' (later 'British Energy', eventually 'EDF Energy'); and its transmission (or downstream) activities to - the 'National Grid Company'.
The shares in National Grid were distributed to the regional electricity companies prior to their own privatisation in 1990. PowerGen and National Power were privatised in 1991, with 60% stakes in each company sold to investors. The remaining 40% in both companies were held by the UK government. The privatisation process was initially delayed as it was concluded that the 'earlier decided nuclear power plant assets in National Power' would not be included in the private company - 'National Power'. A new company was formed, Nuclear Electric, which would eventually own and operate the nuclear power assets; and the nuclear power stations were held in public ownership for a number of years.
In 1995, the UK government sold its 40% stakes in both PowerGen and National Power. The same year, the assets of Nuclear Electric and Scottish Nuclear were combined as well as split. The combination process merged operations of UK's eight most advanced nuclear plants - seven Advanced Gas Cooled Reactor (AGR) and one Pressurised Water Reactor (PWR) - into a new private company founded in 1996, 'British Energy' (now 'EDF Energy'). The splitting process created a separate company in 1996 called 'Magnox Electric' - which would hold a proportion of the old CEGB's nuclear stations, its older Magnox reactors. The assets of Magnox Electric were later combined with BNFL.
Although electricity privatisation began in 1990, the CEGB continued to exist until the Central Electricity Generating Board (Dissolution) Order 2001, a statutory instrument, came into force on 9 November 2001.
Powergen is now E.ON UK, owned by the German utility company E.ON. National Power split into a UK business, Innogy - now known as 'RWE npower' owned by the German utility company RWE; and an international business, 'International Power' - now fully owned by the French company GDF Suez.
- Timeline of the UK electricity supply industry
- Energy policy of the United Kingdom
- Energy in the United Kingdom
- The CEGB Story by Rob Cochrane (with additional research by Maryanna Schaefer) (1990)
- Electricity Act 1957, section 2
- Farewell to CUTLASS
- Page 68 "Lessons from Liberalised Electricity Markets" IEA / OECD (2005)
- "Funding Universe - History of BNFL". Retrieved 11 July 2012.
- "International Power PLC History". Retrieved 11 July 2012.
- "EDF agrees to pay $23 billion for British Energy". Retrieved 11 July 2012.
- "The sale of the Government’s interest in British Energy". Retrieved 11 July 2012.
- The Central Electricity Generating Board (Dissolution) Order 2001] full text