British Electricity Authority

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British Electricity Authority
Company typeState owned government body and regulator
IndustryEnergy: electricity
PredecessorElectricity undertakings, Central Electricity Board, Electricity Commissioners
Founded15 August 1947
Defunct31 March 1955
SuccessorCentral Electricity Authority
United Kingdom
Area served
England, Wales and Southern Scotland
Key people
see text
Production output
69,077 GWh (1955)
ServicesElectricity generating, transmission and sales
Revenue£366.8 million (1955)
£18.8 million (1955)
Number of employees
179,171 (1955)
DivisionsCentral authority and 14 area boards

The British Electricity Authority (BEA) was established as the central British electricity authority[1] in 1948 under the nationalisation of Great Britain's electricity supply industry enacted by the Electricity Act 1947. The BEA was responsible for the generation, transmission and sale of electricity to area electricity boards, and the development and maintenance of an efficient, coordinated and economical system of electricity supply.[2]


The authority took over the operations of over 600 small public supply power companies, municipal authority electricity departments and the Central Electricity Board to form the BEA, which comprised a central authority and 14 area boards. Its scope did not include control of the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board, which had been founded in 1943 and remained independent of the BEA.

The appointment of chairmen and members of the BEA and the area boards were made in August 1947 and the BEA was formally established on 15 August 1947.[3] The 14 area boards were formally established on 1 January 1948, and Vesting Day, when the BEA and area boards became responsible for electricity supply, was on 1 April 1948.[3]

The London headquarters were initially at British Electricity House, Great Portland Street, W1, then British Electricity House, Trafalgar Buildings, Strand, SW1, and British Electricity House, Winsley Street, W1.[4]

Board structure[edit]

The British Electricity Authority was established by Section 2 of the Electricity Act 1947. It comprised a chairman and four to six other members appointed by the Minister of Fuel and Power; four members, also appointed by the minister, who were chairmen of an area electricity board (in rotation); and one other member who was chairman of the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board.[5]

Management board members[edit]

The first appointments to the board were:[6]

Subsequent appointments were, by rotation, the chairman of the South Eastern (Norman R. Elliott), East Midlands (C. R. King), South Wales (L. Howes) and South East Scotland Electricity Board (Sir Norman Duke) were appointed members of the BEA from 1 January 1950. Their terms expired on 31 December 1951 and were succeeded by the appointment of C. T. Melling (Eastern Electricity Board), H. H. Mullens (North Eastern), H. Nimmo (Southern), and S. F. Steward (South Western).[7]

Sir John Hacking retired in 1953 and his place on the board was taken by Josiah Eccles as deputy chairman with effect from January 1954.[8]

Appointments by rotation with effect from 1 January 1954 were H. J. Randall (London), W. S. Lewis (Midlands), D. Bellamy (Yorkshire), and Sir John Hallsworth (North Western).[8]

Headquarters organisation[edit]

The headquarters organisation had seven main departments.[9]

The Chief Contracts Officer (F. W. Smith) was responsible to both of the deputy chairmen.

A board member (E. W. Bussey) was responsible for Labour Relations and Welfare.

Under the Deputy Chairman for Administration (Sir Henry Self) were:

  • The Secretary (H. F. Carpenter)
  • Commercial Manager (E. R. Wilkinson)
  • Chief Accountant (D. W. Coates)
  • Chief legal adviser (R. A. Finn)

Under the Deputy Chairman for Operations (Sir John Hacking) was:

  • Chief Engineer (V. A. Pask), who had four deputy chief engineers
    • Deputy Chief Engineer Generation had two engineering teams:
      • Generation Design Engineer
      • Generation Operations Engineer
    • Deputy Chief Engineer Transmission had three engineering teams:
      • Transmission Design Engineer
      • Transmission Construction Engineer
      • System Operation Engineer, responsible for national control
    • Deputy Chief Engineer Generating Station Construction had four engineering teams:
      • Coordination Engineer
      • Production Inspection and Test Engineer
      • Specifications and Contracts
      • HQ Stations Supervising Engineer
    • Deputy Chief Engineer Research had two engineering teams:
      • Director of Laboratories
      • Engineer-in-Charge Electro-Technical Research

Area boards[edit]

Area electricity boards were established by Section 3 of the Electricity Act 1947. They were responsible for the distribution of electricity and sales to customers. They comprised a chairman and five to seven other members appointed by the Minister of Fuel and Power after consultation with the central authority; and one member holding the office of chairman of the consultative council.[10] The new area boards were:[11]

  1. East Midlands Electricity Board (EMEB)
  2. Eastern Electricity Board (EEB)
  3. London Electricity Board (LEB)
  4. Merseyside and North Wales Electricity Board (MANWEB)
  5. Midlands Electricity Board (MEB)
  6. North Eastern Electricity Board (NEEB)
  7. North Western Electricity Board (NORWEB)
  8. South East Scotland Electricity Board
  9. South Eastern Electricity Board (SEEBOARD)
  10. South Wales Electricity Board (SWALEC)
  11. South West Scotland Electricity Board
  12. South Western Electricity Board (SWEB)
  13. Southern Electricity Board (SEB)
  14. Yorkshire Electricity Board (YEB)

Consultative councils[edit]

Section 7 of the Electricity Act 1947 established a consultative council for each of the area electricity boards. These councils had the duty of considering matters affecting the distribution of electricity in the area, including tariffs and the provision of new or improved services, following representations by consumers or other persons requiring supplies; they could also consider any matter referred to them by the area board. They were to notify their conclusions to the board.[12]

The councils consisted of between twenty and thirty persons appointed by the minister. Not less than half nor more than three-fifths were appointed from a panel of members of local authorities. The remainder represented agriculture, commerce, industry, labour and the general interests of consumers of electricity in the area.[12] The chairman of each consultative council was a member of the area electricity board.[13]


Electricity generation, supply and sales[edit]

The electricity generated, supplied and sold, in GWh, over the establishment of the BEA was as follows:[14]

BEA electricity supplies and sales
Numbers in GWh Year
1947/8 1948/9 1949/50 1950/1 1951/2 1952/3 1953/4 1954/5
Electricity generated 38,665 42,824 45,717 51,859 55,316 57,365 61,621 69,077
Electricity supplied 36,391 40,314 43,036 48,888 52,060 53,920 57,857 64,860
Imports 318 472 410 363 436 430 364 311
Exports 130 194 355 353 268 244 286 276
Total supplies by BEA 36,579 40,592 43,091 48,898 52,228 54,106 57,935 64,895
Used in transmission 618 758 797 948 976 1,053 1,215 1,428
Sales to direct customers 240 623 676 705 709 764 1,016 1,431
Sales to area boards 35,658 39,211 41,618 47,245 50,543 52,288 55,704 62,036
Purchased by area boards from private sources 119 113 90 170 189 159 169 188
Used in distribution 3,348 4,008 4,119 5,095 4,797 4,857 5,191 5,845
Sales by area boards 32,429 35,316 37,589 42,320 45,935 47,590 50,682 56,379


A summary of the BEA's financial results is as follows:[14]

BEA financial summary
£ million Year
1948/9 1951/2 1952/3 1953/4 1954/5
Income from electricity sales 191.1 256.4 285.6 319.6 356.3
Other 6.7 8.0 6.7 7.8 10.5
Total income 197.8 264.4 292.3 327.4 366.8
Expenditure 177.1 237.5 255.1 279.8 310.5
Operating profit 20.7 26.9 37.2 47.6 56.3
Interest 16.3 24.0 29.9 34.4 37.5
Profit after interest 4.4 2.9 7.3 13.2 18.8


There were a total of 169,000 employees in the electricity supply industry 1952, comprising:[14]

Managerial and higher executive 1,224
Technical and scientific 13,707
Technical staff trainees 537
Executive, clerical, accountancy and sales 39,669
Industrial 107,652
Apprentices 5,911


  • Report and statement of accounts - British Electricity Authority, London, HMSO, 1949-55.
  • British Electricity Authority, Electricity supply, Directory of B.E.A., boards and officials. [With portraits and a map.] British Electricity Authority, London, 1948.
  • Glyn Bowen-Jones and British Electricity Authority, Souvenir of the opening of Kingston Power Station by His Majesty the King accompanied by Her Majesty the Queen, on the 27th day of October, 1948, London, 1948.
  • British Electricity Authority, National negotiations in industry: Address, British Electricity Authority, London, 1949.
  • British Electricity Authority, British electricity: its organisation under public ownership, London, 1950.
  • British Electricity Authority Publications Vols. 1, 2 and 3, 1950. Volume 3 comprises Organisation Charts, ‘Two Years’ Work’ and ‘Summer Schools Oxford’.
  • British Electricity Authority, British electricity conference: held at the Royal Hall, Harrogate, 19th June, 1950, London, British Electricity Authority, 1950.
  • British Electricity Authority, Beam: Magazine of the B.E.A., Midlands Division Branch, London, 1954.
  • British Electricity Authority, Power and prosperity, British Electricity Authority, 1954.


As a result of the Electricity Reorganisation (Scotland) Act 1954, the British Electricity Authority was replaced on 1 April 1955 by the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) for England and Wales. At the same time, the two South of Scotland Area Boards and the associated electricity generation and distribution plant were merged into the South of Scotland Electricity Board (SSEB) to form an integrated electricity board responsible for generation, distribution and electricity supply in southern and central Scotland.

Soon afterwards, the Electricity Act 1957 dissolved the Central Electricity Authority, which it replaced with the Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB) and the Electricity Council.[15]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Konstantin Katzarov (6 December 2012). The Theory of Nationalisation. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 213. ISBN 978-94-015-1055-4.
  2. ^ Electricity Act 1947 Section 1
  3. ^ a b Electricity Council (1987). Electricity Supply in the United Kingdom: a Chronology. London: Electricity Council. pp. 60, 61. ISBN 085188105X.
  4. ^ Trade Directory, 1949 and 1955
  5. ^ Electricity Act 1947 Section 2
  6. ^ "New Board for Electricity". The Times. 22 August 1947. p. 3.
  7. ^ "Electricity Authority Appointments". The Times. 7 January 1952. p. 2.
  8. ^ a b "Electricity Authority Appointments". The Times. 11 December 1953. p. 8.
  9. ^ British Electricity Authority (1950). British Electricity Authority Publications Volume 3. London: British Electricity Authority.
  10. ^ Electricity Act 1947 Section 3
  11. ^ Electricity Act 1947 First Schedule
  12. ^ a b Electricity Act 1947 Section 7
  13. ^ Electricity Act 1947, Section 3(3)(b)
  14. ^ a b c Electricity Council (1979). Handbook of Electricity Supply Statistics 1979. London: Electricity Council. pp. 22–3, 35, 96. ISBN 0851880762.
  15. ^ Competition Commission (UK), Report on Electricity Supply Industry, 1987 (PDF) Archived March 4, 2009, at the Wayback Machine


  • Brady, Robert A. (1950). Crisis in Britain. Plans and Achievements of the Labour Government. University of California Press., on nationalization 1945-50, pp 132-82
  • Hannah, Leslie (1979). Electricity before Nationalisation: A Study of the Development of the Electricity Supply Industry in Britain to 1948. London & Basingstoke: The Macmillan Press Ltd. ISBN 0-333-22086-2.
  • Hannah, Leslie (1982). Engineers, Managers, and Politicians: The First Fifteen years of Nationalised Electricity in Britain. London & Basingstoke: The Macmillan Press Ltd. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. (Johns Hopkins UP: ISBN 0-8018-2862-7)

External links[edit]