Aftermath 1945 - 1950
Soon after the island was liberated from the German authorities Major Barritt Hills drew the attention of the Board to the magnitude of the task that lay ahead to rehabilitate and reconstruct the undertaking. At a time when there was an increased demand for materials and equipment, as a consequence of the war there was a general shortage caused by the disruption to the manufacturing industry in the United Kingdom. This in turn was exacerbated by the UK Government's policy of giving priority to exports when allocating quotas.
Despite the poor quality of the fuel, lubricating oil and spare parts that were available during the occupation years, the generating plant had been kept running throughout and had been maintained in reasonably good condition. This was a success story that only a few other electricity undertakings in the United Kingdom could claim. In this respect it is worthy to record that JEC contributed to this achievement when it came to the rescue in 1941, by providing the SEB with four Mirrlees piston rings. On Liberation Day the generating plant had not been subjected to any deliberate damage. Only two sets were out of action, one had an electrical defect that could not be corrected without assistance from England, whilst the other had been used to provide spares for the remaining sets.
Outside of the power stations the position was less satisfactory. Damage had been caused to substations and the distribution network. Wiring in buildings had been ripped away and cooking appliances, washing machines and heaters removed from hundreds of houses and premises that had been occupied by the Germans. The stone industry had been destroyed with much of the machinery removed. Griffiths and Manuelles Quarries in particular were very badly affected and needed complete reconstruction. Of the 1100 streetlights only some 60 to 70 were working, many of them damaged by German army vehicles. The task of rehabilitating the streetlights and the wiring in buildings was made easier by the early return of 90% of the evacuated members of staff, and by the training programme for new recruits. With this extra help, by March 1946 the wiring of some 600 of the houses had been made serviceable, and one half of the streetlights were working. The remaining streetlights were back in operation by the time the winter arrived.
The damage to the Board's offices at 25 High Street, caused by the bomb dropped in the harbour in June 1944, could not be repaired until 1947, due to the restrictions on the use of building materials. Even then it was not possible to carry out all of the work, and it was not until 1954 that the greenhouse glass, used to replace the broken showroom window in 1944, was replaced with plate glass.
Once again the Board found that early attention was needed to the tariffs. During the occupation, when electricity was strictly rationed, the two-part tariff became too expensive for most consumers. As a consequence many consumers changed over to the flat rate tariff, which, despite its much higher unit charge, resulted in a lower bill. The undertaking in Guernsey had always been more dependent on its domestic consumers than most electricity supply undertakings. Now that the stone industry was not operating fully this dependence was greater than ever. Sales of electricity had fallen from 5.7 millions units in 1939 to 2.7 millions in 1945. The potential for an increase in sales was clearly there, but if the gap was to be quickly closed, and the financial position strengthened, domestic consumers had to be given incentives to use more electricity.
With these considerations in mind it was decided to introduce a more attractive two-part tariff that would encourage consumers to return to it. The new tariffs were introduced effective from July 1st 1945. The flat rate lighting units were priced at 6½d for primary units and 5½d for secondary, and flat rate heating and cooking units were charged at 2½d and 2d respectively. For the two-part domestic tariff, the standing charge was based on the number of rooms, starting at £2 8s per quarter for a three-roomed house, plus 1d per unit consumed. The commercial two-part tariff standing charge was £1 5s per quarter for each 100 watts installed, again plus 1d for each unit. The new charges compared favourably with those in force in the early months of 1940 and were lower than those in Jersey. The introduction of the new tariff, coupled with the increase in the number of houses under construction, had the desired effect. The number of units sold nearly doubled over the next three years. This improved the Board's finances, while at the same time consumers benefited from the fall in the average selling price of electricity.
The financial health of the undertaking was an aspect that required attention, but a comprehensive review would need reliable statistics and forecasts. Unfortunately, in the uncertain conditions that existed in the months following the liberation, such data was not available. Pending the review, some minor concerns could be settled. Amongst these was the matter of the accumulated premiums on the Plant and Machinery Breakdown Insurance Policy. Throughout the occupation the Board had set aside the premiums with the intention of paying them when war had ended. However, the Lloyds underwriters had cancelled the policy, under the force majeure clause as soon as the Germans occupied the Island. After the war, new contracts were entered into and the reserved premiums taken back into revenue. A survey of the adequacy of the sinking funds, for the repayment of the States loans taken out before the occupation, revealed that the high rates of interest during the war years had increased the balances in the funds more than had been forecast. The excess amounts, totalling some £16,000, were used to pay off some of the outstanding loans.
Major Barritt Hills reached the retiring age of 65 years in September 1945. The possibility of losing his twenty-six years experience and knowledge of the undertaking at this critical point in its reconstruction caused concern to the Board. It therefore persuaded the States of Deliberation to waive the rules to allow him to continue to serve for a further five years. The President, Mr R H Johns, who had assumed the presidency of the Board, reminded members in the States debate of Major Barritt Hills outstanding service to the community as well as to the undertaking.
Other matters concerning staff arose in September 1945. Representatives of the Board along with the manager met with officials of the Transport and General Workers Union (T&GWU) who advised that the union had recently established a branch in the Island. The union's officials claimed that 90% of the Board's staff had joined the union, but the manager asserted that the T&GWU was not truly representative of all members of the staff. The talks were of an exploratory nature but, nevertheless, the meeting served to introduce a new era in industrial relations within the undertaking.
The maximum demand only reached 2.2 MW in 1945, a full megawatt below that of 1939. It had been expected that the 6Q Fullagar generating set, ordered in 1938, would have been available to the Board after the war ended. However, it was not until late 1946 that negotiations between the manufacturers, English Electric Company, and the Ministry of Supply in Great Britain, finally revealed that during the war the set had been sent to Malta, where it had been run throughout the siege. Subsequently it had been sold and the Ministry had no other similar sets available to replace it; the Board was advised that a replacement set could not be commissioned before 1949. In the meantime the installed ac generating plant would consist of,
1 - 8Q Fullagar rated at 1375 kilowatts
2 - 6Q Fullagar rated at 1050 kilowatts each
2 - Mirrlees rated at 410 kilowatts each
1 - Fraser and Chalmers rated at 950 kilowatts
In addition to this 5,245 kilowatts, there were four old dc generating sets, some of which were located at Les Amballes power station, capable of producing 600 kilowatts between them. Allowing for the Fraser and Chalmers set, which was considered to be operationally unreliable, as well as the largest set to be out of action at any one time, a load of 3.8 MW could be met.
In the early months of 1946 the maximum demand had risen modestly by 10% to 2.4 MW. Due to the erratic consumption of energy during the occupation years, forecasts of the demand for the three winters that would elapse before the 6Q Fullagar set could be commissioned had to be made without reliable statistics. The demand for electricity was growing, also the high price of alternative fuels was an inducement for people to turn to electricity. During the year sales of new electric fires and cookers rose, and there were signs of a gradual recovery in the stone industry. On the other hand the connection of new consumers was restricted due to the inadequacy of the allocation of raw materials to manufacturers, in particular of copper for the manufacture of cables and wiring.
On balance it was considered that the generating plant available would be insufficient to meet the demand up to the winter of 1948/49. Mirrlees could not deliver any new sets in less than two years, which after allowing for erection time, would mean that they would not be running until the winter of 1949/50. The Associated British Oil Engine Company was able to supply two Petter engines, but the alternators, with an output of 400 kilowatts, would not be available for ten months. These two sets were ordered and subsequently commissioned in February 1948, bringing the total station capacity to 6.6 MW. The sets were erected in an area of the old station previously occupied by two small Mirrlees sets that were dismantled to make room for them.
The Petters Engines in the old engine hall
The decision to increase the generating plant was justified when the demand in the winter of 1946/47 rose by 75% to 4.2 MW, and in the following winter to 4.6 MW.
The next review of generating plant, in late 1947 and early 1948, was undertaken in the knowledge that additional plant could not be commissioned until more than three years after the date on which it was ordered. It was therefore considered prudent to order another 6Q Fullagar set for commissioning in late 1951 or early 1952 and to provisionally order a further set for commissioning a year later. To avoid the need to make power cuts, the Board arranged for the Control of Essential Commodities Committee to issue a regulation banning the importation and sale of high consumption electrical appliances, except under permit from the Housing Authority. This order became effective from December 7th 1947 and remained in force until August 3rd 1949. It was supported by an appeal in the newspapers for consumers to restrict their use of electricity, in particular during the times of peak load. The regulation was further extended to relieve the Electricity Board of its statutory obligation to meet all requests for new connections and, to allow it to limit the amount of lighting load to be connected to new supplies. To further reduce consumption the Board was authorised to insist on charging the more expensive flat rate lighting tariff on new supplies.
In December 1948 it was anticipated that new cranes at St Sampsons harbour, and the reconstructed Manuelle's Longue Hougue quarry, would both require large dc loads. Further it was anticipated that as soon as the ban on high consumption electrical appliances was lifted, the demand from domestic consumers would surge. Overall it was the opinion that the precarious position of the winter 1947/48 would be relieved when the two Petter generating sets were running. The commissioning of the 6Q Fullagar generating set in 1949, with an output of 1 MW, would secure the position for that winter, and so allow the ban on high consumption appliances to be lifted, but after that there would be no new plant due for delivery until possibly 1952. Under these circumstances it was decided to order, for commissioning in 1951 and 1952, two Mirrlees turbocharged HFS8 engines producing 1,320 bhp at 375rpm, connected to 915 kW alternators.
In July 1947 negotiations were started with the Jamonneau Trust Estate for the purchase of the disused German power station site in the Bouet. The main building, which had been intended to be the steam powered generating station, could not be put to any immediate use as it had been extensively damaged when the generating plant was removed. The three bay concrete western sections were suitable however for use as a large workshop and heavy cable store, and the temporary steel structure could be used as a wiring store. It was not until 1949 that Messrs Reid Bros., who had been contracted to clear the site, managed to remove all of the plant and materials. After that there were protracted negotiations before the terms of the sale were finalised. The States Electricity Board eventually acquired the Bouet property, on August 4th 1950.
Throughout the period 1946 to 1949 the quota of copper allowed to the manufacturers by the British Government was insufficient to enable them to meet the Board's requirements for cable. In the spring of 1946 Major Barritt Hills advised the Board that he was unable to accept applications for the supply of electricity to outlying areas. Materials that were ordered in 1945 and early 1946 would not be delivered until mid-1947. Priority had to be given to rehabilitation of the distribution network and strengthening electricity supplies to existing consumers, leaving only sufficient materials for the most urgent of new services. Even in 1947 only a little extension work could be put in hand. Early in that year a site was acquired for a substation at La Couture that would provide a connection to the high voltage link between Les Rocquettes and Les Anneville substations. A few months later another substation site was acquired near the Castel Church, which would facilitate development in that area with a high voltage link to the Rohais substation. In the meantime, repairs and modifications were required to the three substations on the outskirts of St. Peter Port, Richmond, Rohais and Rosaire, where 175 kilowatt of dc equipment was needed to meet the load expected in the winter of 1947/48.
About the middle of 1948, a substantial consignment of equipment arrived consisting of high voltage and low voltage mains and service cables, overhead line poles, copper conductors, pole stays and brackets. This enabled the Board to meet new public utility demands from the hospital and States Water Board pumping stations, and also the requirements of the stone industry, hotels and boarding houses. The moderate relief afforded by the arrival of this equipment provided time for consideration and adoption of a comprehensive long-term plan for the development of the distribution network. It had been prepared by Assistant Engineer Mr. Rex H. Samman recently appointed after a period of service in the electricity supply industry in Perth.
The plan was based on the premise that, finance for capital works being in short supply, it was essential that all expenditure should be targeted at agreed long term objectives. These would bear in mind the need to strengthen and expand the distribution network to prepare for future developments, and to reduce transmission losses and voltage drops. All future high voltage extensions would be to 11 kV standards, although for the interim period they would continue to be operated at 6.6 kV. An 11 kV ring main would be installed in stages, to run from the St. Sampson's power station via the east coast to Kings Mills, then back to St. Sampson's via the west coast. Stage 1 of the scheme, from the power station to St. Andrew's substation, was to be started in 1950.
The rise of more than 20% in the price of fuel oil in the latter months of 1947 was followed in 1948 by an increase in wages and salaries and the introduction of a cost of living bonus for staff. The number of units sold during the year rose by 35% and the revenue from sales of electricity by 28%. The additional revenue adequately covered the extra expenditure, and it was not necessary to make any adjustments to the tariff. In 1949, however, an increase was considered necessary. The unit charge on the two-part tariff was raised from 1d to 1¼d, but the other tariffs remained unchanged. The street lighting charges had remained unchanged since their inception in 1934. The Board maintained the lamps for the lighting authorities, charging an inclusive rate for attendance, capital costs, maintenance and electricity. With effect from July 1st 1949 the charge was increased by 25%, which included a revised sum of 1¼d per unit for electricity.
In November 1948 the States approved expenditure of £175,000 on capital works during the period 1948 to 1952. From the date that the States acquired the undertaking in 1933, all capital works had been financed from the surplus of income over expenditure, plus the balance in the non-contributory staff pension fund. The Board had used this to finance its capital works as an alternative to investing it externally. During the occupation the annual surplus from the sale of electricity had fallen as a result of the decline in sales, but over the same period the condition of the plant had deteriorated. There was therefore a backlog of capital works, so that despite the recent increase in revenue, by 1950 the Board could no longer meet all of its capital commitments from internal sources. For the first time since it acquired the undertaking in 1939, the Board was forced to obtain a long-term loan from the States.
In September 1950, Major Barritt Hills reached the age of 70 and retired, having served two owners of the undertaking during his term of office, which stretched over a period of nearly one third of the century. His successor, in the post of Engineer and Manager was Mr. Ian F Young who had previously served with the electricity industry in England. The generation and distribution systems that existed when the occupation ended lacked the technical improvements that would have been made, if the occupation had not intervened. However, when Major Barritt Hills finally retired, he had virtually completed the task of repairing the damage to the undertaking inflicted by the war. Consumers were now able to purchase the appliances they required and new electricity supplies were being connected to the outlying districts. Sufficient generating plant was on order to meet anticipated requirements and an overall up grading of the distribution system had been initiated. The finances were in a satisfactory state, as were the relations between Board, management and staff. Major Barritt Hills left the SEB at the halfway stage of the century with the undertaking in good shape, having survived a depression, two world wars and a change of ownership.
Coincidentally, in the same month in which Major Barritt Hills retired Ernest Bennett, for thirty years manager of the States Telephone Department, also retired. During the nineteen twenties he had carried out the functions of Overhead Lines Inspector.