Prosperous Times 1950 - 1959
The arrival of Rex Samman in 1948 and Ian Young in 1950 was followed early in 1953 by the appointment of Mr William (Bill) G Sexton as Chief Accountant. All three had previous experience of the electricity supply industry and were well acquainted with recent developments in their respective professions. With the long serving Len Fosbrooke, they formed the new management team of the undertaking. The Board was in a position to proceed with plans for consolidation and expansion, therefore the introduction of the new team was timely. Soon after Ian Young's arrival, the Board approved in principle the recommendations set out in his survey of the undertaking. It was this survey, together with the detailed Samman report of January 1949 on the distribution network that was to serve as the blueprint for the development of the undertaking over the next few years.
During the first fifty years of the Undertaking's operations, the average number of new connections each year was less than 180, despite the above average increases in the years after the liberation. Throughout the fifties the rate averaged about 600 a year. In 1951 there was less than one domestic consumer for every 5 people living on the island, by 1959 the ratio was 1 to 3.5. This rate of growth could not be foreseen in 1950, but it was apparent that the rate would be far in excess of that of previous years. The number of outstanding applications for supplies, the amount of house building in progress and the general awareness of the public of the scope for greater use of electricity, all made a faster rate foreseeable. During the ten years:
The number of units sold increased by 22 million to 32.5 million.
The number of consumers increased by 5,000 to 14,805.
Maximum demand increased by 6 MW to 10.3 MW.
The project for strengthening the distribution network and the installation of the 11kV ring main that started in 1950, incurred expenditure of £52,000 in that year. The rate accelerated in 1951 to £85,000 when the projects included the renewal of the distribution system in the St Peter Port harbour as well as the continuance of the installation of the ring main. In 1952 the expenditure fell back to £46,000 when a further 10½ kilometres of cable was laid to complete the ring main from the Richmond substation to Kings Mills, then on to the Camp du Roi substation, and so back to the power station. This stage of the project included constructing five new primary substations equipped with systems to protect them from damage in the event of power surges or faults. Between the start of the construction of the high voltage ring main and 1953, over 10 kilometres of high voltage cable were laid, in addition to the ring main.
Wherever reinforcement of the low voltage dc system was needed, the opportunity was taken to effect the change over to ac. Many of the old cables had been in the ground for more than 50 years, and were replaced with four core ac distributors. Where the dc cables consisted of three cores it was frequently possible to utilise them in the change over. The work on the low voltage system involved commissioning 73 kilometres of cable, and by the end of 1953 there were 70 substations in operation. By 1957 this had increased to 94, and the load had increased to such an extent that it became necessary to lay a second 11kV underground cable between the power station and the Richmond substation. This cable had stranded copper conductors with a cross-sectional area of 0.2 square-inches. The success in achieving the objective of reducing the transmission losses can be judged by the fall from over 18% of units generated in 1951 to 12½% in 1959. At the same time improved methods of automatic fault disconnection reduced the number of customers affected by faults on the system.
Photograph, taken about 1956,of cables laid at the corner of Northside and the Hougue Jehannet
To meet the demand from the increased number of consumers, mainly resulting from the Housing Authority's policy of building more houses, a considerable length of overhead line was erected during this period. In the year 1959 alone some 16km were installed. There were 104 substations in operation by the end of that year, and the length of existing mains distribution cables had been increased from less than 350 km in 1951, to over 460 km in 1959.
In addition to the strengthening of the distribution system there were a number of projects to enhance the electricity supply to public services. The renewal of the distribution system in St Peter Port harbour, in 1951, came at the time when it was necessary to change the lighting and power circuits to alternating current. As the cranes were wired for direct current, a new rectifier and transformer substation was commissioned to provide the cranes with direct current while providing for an alternating current supply to the other equipment in the harbour. The unmanned Platte Fougére lighthouse, built in 1910, had originally been supplied with power to control the fog signal by means of a cable from Fort Doyle. The lamp had been lit by gas carried to the rock by boat. In 1950 the signal cable, which had suffered several breaks, was replaced and the light was connected to the electricity supply.
The number of additional streetlights commissioned during this period did not match the increased demand from other sections of the community. By 1959, the number had risen to only 1,356 from the pre-war total of approximately 1,100. The streetlighting service was enhanced in 1952 when an order was placed for Plessey rhythmatic control equipment. This equipment comprised two generators, situated at St Sampson's power station and the Albany substation. It injected signals into the 11 kV distribution system to modify the ac voltage waveform and produce a series of rhythms in a unique code. These rhythms were recognised by dedicated relays fitted into the appliances to be controlled, in particular lamp columns. In this way, the power station could switch streetlights on and off at appropriate times as agreed with the public lighting authorities. The system had a labour saving advantage over the old method, which had involved the regular winding and maintenance of time switches. It was also beneficial in that all streetlights could be switched on and off at the same time, and, for the first time, the timing of either the on or off operation could be easily adjusted to meet the needs of special occasions, such as New Years Eve. Following negotiations with the various street-lighting authorities, the removal of the time switches on the lamps and their replacement with rhythmatic relays started in 1956.
This system also provided an additional operational facility for use in emergency situations by giving the power station direct control over less essential loads, which could be disconnected in the event of the breakdown of a generating set. It also opened the way for the introduction, in 1957, of a special tariff for off-peak loads, the first proactive step towards load management and the improvement of the system load factor.
The following year, at the request of the Board of Administration and the constables of St. Peter Port, a street lighting scheme for the coastal road from the South Esplanade to Les Banques was inaugurated. Each streetlight comprised three 80 watts fluorescent lamps on a GEC concrete column. Using the rhythmatic control, two of the lamps were switched off at midnight, leaving the other lit until dawn. A year later, in 1958, St. Sampson's Constables requested a similar scheme, so that from that time the coastal road was illuminated from the South Esplanade to the Bridge at St. Sampson's with electric lamps. By December 31st 1959, 784 lamps, including those on the East Coast road, were operated by rhythmatic controls.
The introduction of the new style concrete columns met with some criticism. One newspaper, under the headline "Ugly Lamp Standards", published a photograph showing the columns in situ, and compared the design unfavourably with the old Victorian iron lampposts. It went on to comment that the columns were rising like mushrooms, but they were ugly and spoiling the environs of the St. Peter Port Harbour. Nevertheless, it was accepted that they provided a much better light.
During this period of growth there was a continuing programme of installing and decommissioning generating plant, increasing the capacity of the station to 16 MW. Between 1951 and 1959, seven generating sets, with a rated output totalling some 5 MW, were decommissioned, and replaced by eight sets with a combined rating of 12½ MW. In 1951 a second Mirrlees HFS 8 generating set, rated at 915 kilowatts, was commissioned, and two of the old Mirrlees 200 kilowatts sets, installed in 1920, were decommissioned. The following year the last of the English Electric 6Q sets, with an output of 1.03 MW, was commissioned. In 1953 the 1MW English Electric 8 SRL set was installed. This was the last of the English Electric generating sets to be purchased; for the next twenty years the generating set of choice was to be of Mirrlees manufacture.
By 1951, the oil pipeline to St. Sampson's harbour had reached the end of its useful life and a replacement was considered necessary. However, due to the shortage of materials, it was not installed until late in the following year.
In 1953 it was thought that the maximum demand was likely to continue to increase at the rate of about 10% per annum. The point was rapidly approaching therefore, when generating plant with a rated output of 1MW would be inadequate to meet the demand efficiently. The decision was taken to standardise on plant of about 2 MW, which led to the choice of the Mirrlees KVSS 12 generator. In 1954, one of the Mirrlees 410 kilowatt Diesel generating sets, installed in 1927 was de-commissioned. The following year, the first of the Mirrlees KVSS12 engines, fitted with a 2 MW Brush alternator, was installed in the old part of the engine hall, which already housed the Fraser Chalmers and the English Electric 8Q sets. The Board agreed that the new generator should be run on the cheaper Medium Fuel Oil (MFO), with a viscosity of 950 seconds. Hitherto, the more expensive 35-seconds Marine Distillate oil had been used. MFO was generally referred to for many years as "Heavy" oil, to distinguish it from the lighter gas oil used in the smaller generators. Because of the higher viscosity of MFO, additional fuel treatment was necessary before it could be injected into the engines. To this end, a boiler for heating the oil and a centrifuge for cleaning it, were installed. The last of the old Mirrlees sets, installed in 1925, with an output of 410 kilowatts, was dismantled to make room for the second KVSS12 generator that was commissioned in 1957.
To accommodate the additional generating plant it was necessary to replace the associated high voltage switchgear, which was now under-rated and obsolete. It was situated, with the main switch and control board, in the engine hall and in 1953 was replaced with remote control GEC switchgear. The new plant comprised 27 single air insulated busbar units, with a breaking capacity of 150 mega-volt-amperes (MVA) at 6.6 kV. The replacement oil circuit breakers were situated on the eastern side of the Hougue Jehannet, and remotely operated from a new control room. Because of the distance between the control room and the switchgear, it was necessary to install some 27,500 metres of PVC cable for operation and control functions.
The rapid expansion of the generating capacity, and the commissioning of the rhythmatic control equipment, led to further modifications to the electrical systems in 1957. The capacity of the power station was by then 14 MW. Because of the high fault currents that could now flow at peak loads, the time had come to install a neutral earth resistance. This resistance protected the generators by limiting the magnitude of earth currents that could flow under fault conditions. An 8-panel switchboard and a 100kVA transformer, along with automatic change over equipment, were also installed to provide a source of electrical energy for works power requirements, independent from the public supply.
The year 1958 was one of the busiest to date for the power station staff. As planned, another KVSS12 generating set was built, ready for commissioning early in the following year. There was also an unusually large amount of repair work undertaken, arising from the breakdown of plant. In January a turbo-charger, fitted to the recently commissioned KVSS12 engine failed. The first 6Q Fullagar generator, installed in 1939, suffered a fractured crankshaft in June. The set had run for nearly 85,000 hours and a replacement crankshaft could not be delivered in less than a year. The set was therefore decommissioned and replaced by a Mirrlees KSS6 engine, fitted with a 1.094 MW Brush alternator. In the same month a piston crown cracked on the Fraser Chalmers 975 kilowatts set. Installed in 1931 it had been the intention to decommission this set in 1959/60, but in view of the breakdown it was decided to replace it rather than repair it. Before the year was out, the alternator on one of the KVSS12 sets failed. On this occasion the repairs were carried out on site, and the set was back in operation within ten days.
A shortage of water, in early 1958, led the States Water Board to consider a plan to install a desalination plant. The scheme that evolved was for the installation of plant and equipment that would provide 500,000 gallons of fresh water a day from salt water, and would include an alternator capable of producing 2.3 MW of electricity. Initially it was intended that this would be a joint project, financed by the States Water Board and the States Electricity Board. However, on further study it was considered that such a scheme would be uneconomic, and the Water Board went ahead with the desalination plant alone.
The KSS6 and the KVSS12 Mirrlees generating sets, which replaced the 6Q Fullagar and the Fraser Chalmers sets respectively, were commissioned early in 1959. In the same year another KVSS12 engine, also with a Brush 2.2 MW alternator, was installed to replace the smaller 8Q Fullagar set commissioned in 1934. In addition to these replacements of generating sets, an obsolete cooling tower was demolished, the cooling pond modified and a new cooling tower erected.
In 1957 it had been forecast that the introduction of television would result in an additional load of 1¼ MW. The operations personnel at the power station, found that the installation of these sets altered consumer's daily routines, thus introducing changes in the way the demand varied through the day. A surge in demand occurred when there was a break in a popular programme, for example at halftime in a football match. Viewers would take the opportunity offered by the break to switch on kettles and cookers. This could not always be anticipated, and it was not until a radio was provided in the control room that the operations staff was able to cope comfortably with this change. 'Shoot-outs' at the end of tied football matches were a particular problem, sometimes creating sufficient surge in demand to make it necessary to start an extra generating set.
The number of consumers was approaching 10,000 in 1951. The Bills of Exchange Law, which obviated the need to issue receipts for all payments, was not enacted until 1958. Consequently, in the early fifties more than 40,000 receipts had to be issued each year, a number that was growing at an annual average rate in excess of 2,500. To cope with the workload a National Cash Register Receipting machine was purchased. In October 1952 a Burroughs Accounting machine was installed to process other accounts. This arrangement was soon found to be unsatisfactory, as each machine being restricted to a single application, they could not assist each other when needed to cope with fluctuations in the flow of work. To overcome the problem in 1954 the two machines were replaced by two pieces of equipment that were interchangeable and which could carry out all of the applications required.
The method of calculating the provision for depreciation of assets was changed in 1953. Although the 1932 Plender report had recommended a formula for calculating depreciation, this had not been implemented, and the amount put aside each year had continued to be the amount considered necessary, after taking account of the financial results and the condition of the plant. From 1953 depreciation was based on the Plender formula.
The continuous meter reading cycle and a hire purchase scheme for the sale of electrical appliances were some of the other changes that were introduced at this time. Also fifty consumers on"limiters" were changed over to standard tariffs. These were the remaining users of a system, introduced in the thirties, who paid a fixed weekly amount for a limited supply of electricity. The system had been brought into effect when the distribution network was inadequate to provide an unlimited supply in some areas.
Still in the field of finance, prior to 1956 it had been the practice for the cost of changing consumer's installations from direct to alternating current to be carried forward in the accounts. In 1956 the accumulated costs were written off, and from that time on the expenditure incurred each year was written off at the end of the period.
Even without this charge, there were losses on the sale of electricity, in each of the three years 1950 to 1952. In 1953 there was a profit, but the rise in fuel prices in 1954 was the primary cause of the loss for that financial year. The maximum price that could be charged for electricity had been increased by the States in 1952, to 9d for units supplied on the two-part tariff and the flat rate lighting tariff, and to 3d for those supplied on the flat rate heating and cooking tariff. This cleared the way for a revision of the Board's charges. Early in 1954 the maximum demand tariff for large industrial users was revised to provide a return of approximately 2½d per unit. This was followed by an adjustment to the tariff charged to States departments, which since the start of operations in 1900 had benefited from a very low scale of charges. From May the normal tariffs were applied to all States committees other than supplies to those sites such as the States Water Board's pumping stations that fell into the category of large industrial users.
Later in the year 1954 a revision of the two-part tariff revealed that the formula that had been built into the tariff to recover the consumer-related costs of running the undertaking was not achieving its purpose. The costs comprised those incurred in the provision of services, which have to be met whether or not any electricity is used, such as the installation, maintenance and reading of meters. On the two-part tariff these expenses were recovered by levying a fixed charge, after which there was a reduced charge for each unit consumed. The fixed charge was calculated by reference to the number of bedrooms in domestic premises, and the number of 100 watts lamps installed in commercial premises. The principle was sound but the original assessments, in many cases dating from 1945, had not been always been adjusted after alterations were made to properties. By 1954, the sum being recovered by way of the fixed charge was insufficient to meet the costs of providing the services, but to attempt to revise the assessments, after so many years, would have encountered fierce resistance. To overcome the problem the two-part tariffs were abolished and replaced by the block tariffs.
The first block of units on this tariff was charged at a higher rate than the remainder. For domestic consumers the charges were 8d for the first 80 units consumed per quarter, and 1½d for the remainder. For commercial users the charges were 8d for the first 10% of units per quarter, the remainder were charged in two blocks at 3d and 1¾d. The flat rate tariff for heating, cooking and power was also increased, to 3d for each of the first 1,000 units and 1¾d for each of the remainder.
To complete the review of tariffs, at the end of the year the staff discount on electricity bills was withdrawn. A concessionary rate for members of the staff had been introduced in the early days by the Guernsey Electric Light and Power Company, but was modified in 1934 to take the form of a discount after the States purchased the undertaking. It had continued ever since even though the rates of pay were by this time in line with those of the civil servants and other States employees.
By the middle of 1956 the fear that the political situation in the Middle East would interrupt the supply of oil led the Board to order another 500 tons storage tank. Tension that had been growing between Egypt and several western countries developed into the Suez Crisis. Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser, the ruler of Egypt at that time, was incensed in mid-1956 when the US Government refused to help finance the building of his pet project, the Aswan Dam. The refusal was based on sound economic advice; nevertheless within a few days Nasser nationalised the Suez Canal. He offered full compensation to its owners, but the act came as a complete surprise to the rest of the world. The canal, originally built in the first century BC, had been rebuilt many times over the years before the final version, constructed by the French engineer Ferdinand de Lesseps between 1854 and 1867, was inaugurated on November 17th 1869. Subsequently, in 1874, Benjamin Disraeli secured shares in the Suez Canal Company for the British government. In 1956 the British government and a number of French businessmen owned the majority of the shares in the company and did not welcome Nasser's action to nationalise their asset. Tension heightened until, on October 31st. war broke out between Egypt and the allies, Britain, France and Israel. This quickly came to an end when, on November 4th, Nasser blocked the canal by sinking the 40 ships that were in it at the time. This deprived the allies' warships of fuel; operating in the Mediterranean Sea they were on the other side of the canal from the source of the oil.
Although the Suez war of 1956 ended after a few days, and the canal was reopened in the following March the tension did not end, consequently the concern that oil deliveries could be interrupted did not go away. Any time that the canal was blocked, oil tankers would have to bring cargoes round the Cape of Good Hope, lengthening the time of the journey by several weeks, and increasing the price of oil delivered to Europe. It was about this time that the Electricity Board was preparing its 1957 budget. To avoid ending the year with a loss, it was agreed that the estimates of expenditure on fuel for the year should allow for an increase in price of 2d per gallon. This proved to be inadequate as within a few weeks, the price that had already risen by ¾d per gallon since June, rose by a further 3d to over 1s 4d per gallon. The tariff was adjusted upwards with effect from January 1st 1957, but a few days later there was another increase, this time of 1¼d per gallon of oil. As the political crisis relaxed into an uneasy peace, this proved to be the last increase arising out of the Suez War, and in the ensuing months the price gradually fell back.
By the middle of the year the situation was such that the Board's confidence in the relative stability of the oil price returned, sufficiently for it to reduce the tariffs to their 1956 level. The price of oil fluctuated over the next two years until mid-1959 when a revised contract for its supply led to a reduction in the price by 1½d per gallon. The Board decided that the benefit of this reduction should be passed on to consumers, and a new tariff was introduced. The primary rate of 8d per unit was reduced to 7d, whilst the structure of the commercial block tariff was revised to form three blocks charged at 7d, 2d, and 1½d respectively. Apart from minor adjustments in 1962, this tariff was to remain in force for more than a decade.
The success of the policy decisions, taken in the early fifties to promote greater efficiency, is reflected in the statistics for the period. The reduction in the transmission losses has already been mentioned. At the power station, the increased thermal efficiency of the larger generating sets reduced the quantity of fuel oil used to generate each unit of electricity by 16%, from 0.604 lbs. in 1951 to 0.506 lbs. in 1960. Also the introduction of the off peak tariff that had promoted the use of under floor heating helped to raise the load factor from 37 % to 42 %.
As the changeover of consumers' installations from direct to alternating current passed its peak, releasing staff for work on reimbursable jobs, the profitability of the contracting section improved. The work that it carried out included some prestigious jobs. The nurses' home and X-ray department at the Princess Elizabeth Hospital, the States Dairy, Beaucamp School and the Airport all awarded contracts for wiring their premises to the SEB contracting section. The Airport project was a complex operation, involving the planning and installation of a standby generating plant, wiring the terminal building and the runway. In total 43 kilometres of cable were installed, and the work was all carried out without interruption to the airport operations. The mid-fifties were times when the sale of refrigerators and cold storage equipment was increasing. Among the projects carried out by the section in this category was the more unusual job of converting the forward hold of the S. S. Snider into a large refrigerated area, for the conveyance of meat.
The site at the Bouet, purchased in 1950, was brought into use in the following year. The contracting section's stores were re-located from the Coal Quay and the workshops were transferred from 25 High Street. This released space for the showroom in the High Street to be extended to include a demonstration kitchen, and a larger area for the display of appliances. In the early hours of Saturday June 8th 1957, a fire swept through the contracting section's buildings at the Bouet, destroying almost all of the contents, stores, tools and equipment, and two motor vehicles. There was a loud explosion when the fire reached oxy-acetylene cylinders. The proximity to the Guernsey Gas Company's premises caused some concern that the fire might reach the gas storage tanks, but fortunately this did not happen. The substation on the site was untouched and the fire brigade managed to keep the fire from the underground petrol storage tanks. The loss of the workshops and stores building could have caused far greater inconvenience if the Guernsey Gas Company had not come to the rescue. It allowed the contracting section to use a part of its stores, situated on the adjoining site in the Bouet, until the following March when the fire damaged site again became useable.
From the early days of his tenure, Ian Young had expressed the opinion that the accommodation in which the organisation operated was too congested, and did not provide facilities that were conducive to efficient management. In particular, he considered that conditions at 25 High Street were cramped, and that the organisation was too scattered. At this time the mains' records were kept at Les Amballes, the drawing office was situated at St Sampson's power station, the contracting section was at the Bouet, and the administration and commercial sections at the High Street premises. As the work of the undertaking expanded conditions became more and more unsatisfactory. In 1956, the number of staff employed in the undertaking exceeded 200, double the number employed pre-war, working in little changed conditions.
An investigation into the availability of sites for new accommodation revealed that the only suitable property was the old tobacco factory in Cornet Street, belonging to Bucktrout&Co. Ltd. This could be acquired for £25,000, with the cost of clearing the site and building new offices estimated at £100,000. The Board's proposal to purchase this property was rejected by the States of Deliberation, but later in the year the Board entered into an agreement with Island Properties Ltd whereby the company would acquire the site, and then build a suitable office block on it for leasing to the Board. By the autumn work was in progress demolishing the old tobacco factory with a target date of 1961 for the completion of the office block.
In March 1958, the Bills of Exchange Guernsey Law came into force. This had the effect of reducing the number of receipts that had to be issued, and consequently the work and cost of the accounts section. Later in the year the Board changed the name of its bank account from "The States of Guernsey Electricity Department" to "The States of Guernsey Electricity Board".
During the occupation Emergency Regulations had been introduced to relieve the Electricity Board of some of its obligations that were not suited to the conditions of the time. These regulations were due to be rescinded but the Board considered that some provisions should be retained. As a result the Electricity (Modification) (Guernsey) Law 1955 was registered in the Island in July 1955. This made provision for the continuation of those functions that had previously been included in the Emergency Regulations and were still deemed necessary. It also provided for Article 31of the 1933 Electricity Law to be varied by Ordinance to allow the States, when it deemed desirable, to relax the stringent safety standards for electrical installations and appliances. Further, the new law relieved the Board, in certain circumstances, of the obligation, to connect premises to the power supply when requested.
In February 1956 Dick Johns retired from the office of president of the Board, which he had occupied since 1945. Mr. Raymond O Falla succeeded him but due to ill health he retired in 1958. Conseilleur Stanley W Gavey was appointed to become the next President, an office he was to hold until his retirement in 1971.