Central Electricity Authority
|British Electricity Authority|
|State owned government operational and regulatory body|
|Fate||Abolished by restructuring of industry|
|Predecessor||British Electricity Authority|
|Successor||Central Electricity Generating Board, Electricity Council|
|Founded||1 April 1955|
|Defunct||31 December 1957|
|England and Wales|
|79,525 GWh (1956)|
|Services||Electricity generating, transmission and sales|
|Revenue||£413.2 million (1956)|
Number of employees
|Divisions||12 Generation Divisions and Area Electricity Boards|
The Central Electricity Authority (CEA) was a body that managed and operated the electricity supply industry in England and Wales between 1 April 1955 and 31 December 1957. The CEA replaced the earlier British Electricity Authority (BEA) as a result of the Electricity Reorganisation (Scotland) Act 1954, which moved responsibility for Scottish electricity supply to the Scottish Office.
The structure of the management Board and the personnel in post remained the same as the BEA with the exception of the removal of representation by the Chairman of the North of Scotland Electricity Board. There was a reduction from 14 to 12 of the number of Area Electricity Boards – the South East Scotland Board and South West Scotland Board were removed from the CEA's management. The functions of the remaining Area Boards were unchanged.
Later appointments to the Central Electricity Authority by rotation between Area Boards were:
- N. Elliott, South Eastern Board, Member from January 1956
- C.R. King, East Midlands Board, Member from January 1956
- L. Howles, South Wales Board, Member from January 1956
- D.H. Kendon, Merseyside and North Wales Board, Member from January 1956.
The following were appointed to the Board in 1956:
- G.A.S. Nairn, part-time member of North Wales Electricity Board since 1947, Member
- Sir Leslie Nicholls, Chairman Cable and Wireless Ltd, Member
- Sir Henry Self, deputy chairman, reappointed
- G.H.E. Woodward, part-time member, reappointed.
The following were appointed to the Board in 1957:
- J.D. Peattie, chief engineer of the Board retired 31 January but retained as consultant
- F.H.S. Brown, was appointed chief engineer
- E.S. Booth, construction engineer was appointed deputy chief engineer
- J.C. Duckworth, was appointed deputy chief engineer (nuclear power)
Electricity generation and sales
The electricity generated, supplied and sold by the CEA, in GWh, was as follows:
|Numbers in GWh||Year|
|Total supplies by CEA||70,559||74,208|
|Used in transmission||1,599||1,771|
|Sales to direct customers||1,815||2,204|
|Sales to Area Boards||67,145||70,233|
|Purchased by Area Boards from private sources||160||146|
|Used in distribution||5,855||5,069|
|Sales by Area Boards||61,450||65,310|
Note: import and export include bulk supplies from South of Scotland.
The numbers and types of CEA customers was as follows:
|Type of customer, thousands||Year|
|Combined domestic and commercial||230||229|
There was a total of 180,923 employees in the electricity supply industry 1956, this comprised:
- Managerial and higher executive: 1,335
- Technical and scientific: 15,480
- Technical staff trainees: 1,624
- Executive, clerical, accountancy and sales: 40,636
- Industrial: 115,934
- Apprentices: 5,914
In addition to the routine operations of generating and transmitting electricity the Central Electricity Authority dealt with a number of strategic issues.
In the mid-1950s the National Coal Board estimated that it would be unable to supply the electricity industry’s projected demand for coal in the 1960s. Pressure was put on the CEA by the Ministry of Fuel and Power to adopt dual (coal and oil) firing in a large number of power stations being planned or then being constructed. The CEA believed that the cost of extra equipment and the high price of oil would make the scheme uneconomic. The CEA limited dual-firing to a small number of stations in the south of the country remote from coal fields.
In addition to coal and oil, nuclear power was under development in the 1950s. The newly constituted CEA had urgently needed to find suitable sites for the first nuclear stations. They had to be in the south of England near the major load centres, but away from major population areas. They needed to have good load bearing properties for the heavy reactors and have an abundant source of water. Two sites were identified in Bradwell, Essex and Berkeley, Gloucestershire.
The Atomic Energy Authority (AEA) had encouraged major manufacturers of equipment – principally boilers and turbo-alternators – to form consortia to supply the nuclear power station contracts. The CEA was reluctant to give turnkey contracts to these consortia as it wished to retain control of design and ordering. Eventually the CEA vetted the designs but relied on the Atomic Energy Authority advice on the nuclear aspects.
The CEA were under pressure from Government to accept a greater degree of future nuclear development than it thought was feasible. In 1956 the AEA considered that there were insufficient resources to meet 3400 MW of future nuclear plant, but by the following year considered that 5975 MW was possible. The CEA were concerned about the implications for their coal-fired programme and thought there would be an excessive surplus of coal-fired plant if the 6000 MW nuclear power programme went ahead. It believed that 3400 MW was a more realistic target. Nevertheless, in March 1957 the Cabinet approved a 6000 MW programme of 19 nuclear power stations.
The BEA had expanded the Central Electricity Research Laboratories at Leatherhead where the BEA/CEA had undertaken their own practical research on the ‘supergrid’, and on turbines and boilers. In the mid 1950s the CEA also commissioned research at universities on non-practical applications. These research contracts were placed on the advice of the Authority's Research Council.
The financial income and expenditure of the CEA over its two full financial operating years (in £ million) was as follows:
|Combined trading results|
|Income from electricity sales||369.9||413.2|
|Profit after interest||12.2||11.7|
|Revenue Account Expenditure|
The devolution of power exemplified in the Electricity Reorganisation (Scotland) Act 1954 did not satisfy some quarters of the Conservative Government who were critical of the over-centralisation in the industry. In July 1954 the Minister of Fuel and Power, Geoffrey Lloyd, appointed a departmental committee, chaired by Sir Edwin Herbert, to examine the efficiency and organisation of the industry and to make recommendations.
The Herbert committee reported in January 1956 and found that the Central Electricity Authority’s dual roles of electricity generation and supervision had led to central concentration of responsibility and to duplication between headquarters and divisional staff which led to delays in the commissioning of new stations. The Committee’s recommendations were accepted by the Government which enacted the Electricity Act 1957. This dissolved the Central Electricity Authority (and the Electricity Commissioners) and established the Electricity Council to oversee the industry and the Central Electricity Generating Board with responsibility for generation and transmission.
- "Electricity Authority Appointments (p. 8)". The Times. 11 December 1953.
- "Central Electricity Authority Members (p. 4)". The Times. 19 October 1955.
- "Central Electricity Authority Members (p. 4)". The Times. 2 June 1956.
- "Electricity Authority Appointments (p. 4)". The Times. 17 January 1957.
- Electricity Council (1979). Handbook of Electricity Supply Statistics 1979. London: Electricity Council. pp. 22–3, 35, 40, 44, 56. ISBN 0851880762.
- Electricity Council (1979). Handbook of Electricity Supply Statistics 1979. London: Electricity Council. pp. 22–3, 35, 96. ISBN 0851880762.
- Hannah, Engineers pp.170-71
- Hannah, Engineers p.174
- Hannah, Engineers pp.175-76
- Hannah, Engineers pp.179-81
- Hannah, Engineers p. 118
- Forrest, J.S. (1955). "Research Investigations of the Central Electricity Authority". Nature. 175: 877–879.
- Hannah, Engineers p.163
- Hannah, Engineers, p.165
- Electricity Council (1987). Electricity Supply in the United Kingdom: a Chronology. London: Electricity Council. pp. 69, 71–2. ISBN 085188105X.
- Report by UK Competition Commission on The South of Scotland Electricity Board, 1986
- Leslie Hannah, Engineers, Managers and Politicians: The First Fifteen Years of Nationalised Electricity Supply in Britain (1982, Macmillan, London) ISBN 0333220870