Into the 21st Century 1994 - 2000
The last five years of the first century of the operation of the undertaking, which ended on February 20th 2000, saw sales of electricity grow at approximately the same rate as had been attained during the previous ten years. The number of units generated each year continued to increase at the rate of about 8 million, until for the first time they exceeded 300 million during the final year. Over the same period the number of consumers rose to 27,380, up 896 from the figure at the end of March 1994. The maximum demand progressed less consistently, having fallen back from its peak of 64.5 MW, reached on January 8th 1997, to 59.5 MW in February 2000.
The undertaking continued to take advantage of advances in electronic and communications technology to improve both efficiency, and the standard of service to customers. Many of the innovations were of a prestigious nature. Among those that had a less apparent, but nonetheless significant impact, were changes in the meter section of the electrical engineering department. After a detailed study, that included a visit to the Yorkshire Electricity Board Meter Test Station at Leeds, in early 1999 a major modification was made to the testing equipment of the section. The 1933 Electricity Law made it incumbent upon the Board to install meters in customers' premises, maintain them in good order to accurately measure the consumption, and to certify them accordingly. To this end all meters were tested and certified before they were installed, and replaced and re-tested after 15 years. Over the years the method of testing had improved, as more sophisticated equipment became available. The latest installation was computer controlled and was capable of calibrating meters to a degree of accuracy well within the limits of plus or minus 1% adopted in Guernsey. This limit was itself considerably lower than that permitted under the UK Meters (Certification) Regulations 1998. The results of the tests were automatically recorded on the computer, from which schedules were produced for the meter replacement and re-test programme.
Still in the electrical engineering department, improved technology facilitated the enhancement of the distribution network mapping system. In 1999 the SYSDECO system for recording details of the distribution network was replaced by 'Smallworld' software. The cable records were transferred to the new system database and preparations made for the system to be operational and fully available by the middle of the year 2000. The GIS map base would then show details of the distribution network from the generating plant to the customers' meters. It was planned to connect the system to the IT service during the course of the year from which time other sections of the undertaking would have direct access to the data.
Mention has already been made of the inconvenience caused to customers, and the undertaking, by damage to cables by contractors engaged on road works. The most notable of these had occurred in the low lying and sandy areas of La Mare at Vazon and Grand Fort Road St Sampson's some years earlier. Both incidents had involved considerable remedial work. In 1999, it was decided to take the initiative in the battle to contain this type of nuisance by the introduction of a 'dial before you dig' service. With the GIS records now substantially up to date, a direct telephone line to the drawing office was installed. This provided a service to contractors who could obtain information about cable positions and their depths, from a member of staff with access to these GIS records, before starting excavation works.
The greater use of information technology and the rationalisation of the computing services, which started in the late eighties, developed a new momentum from 1994. Once the new computer equipment and the revised operating routine had been fully installed in the IT section, attention turned towards extending the facilities to all parts of the undertaking. The new Corporate Server and the PC Network service as well as the MIDAS system were developed to provide a wider dissemination of information, and to make records accessible across the boundaries of the individual sections of the organisation. It continued to carry out the accounting and general administrative functions and added e-mail and Internet access services. Many of these systems were developed by the IT staff, whilst others were enhanced from packages purchased from ICL and other suppliers.
These extensions to IT services were made possible by additions and replacement of the equipment of the central computer installation. In October 1997 the DX270/20 computer was replaced with an ICL Trimetra L80, to be followed by the addition of two Windows NT servers. The mass of wiring, connecting the PCs to the main frame and the complex internal telephone network, were replaced with a structured cabling system which would simplify later modifications and extensions to the networks.
The IT section also developed the Intranet, an internal version of the Internet. This large databank, collated from all departments of the organisation, contained updated information concerning the progress on current activities, which enabled all members of the staff to be aware of developments taking place across the whole spectrum of the organisation. It was available to all staff with a PC, and browsers were installed at a number of strategic points, to make the information available to those who did not need access to a computer for their daily work.
The latter years of the century brought global concern over the effect of the change of date at midnight on December 31st. Internationally, there was a race against time to eradicate the "millennium bug'. It was feared that when the current date '1999' on the records was increased to '2000', some computers would not recognise the New Year, with unpredictable results.
Within GE great efforts were made to ensure that all systems would operate as intended. Manufacturers of date sensitive control devices were requested to advise whether their products were 2000 compliant; but from this information alone it was not possible to be absolutely sure that all would be well when the time came. Investigations revealed a number of areas where modifications were necessary, and after these had been made, exhaustive tests were carried out to ensure that normal operations would not be interrupted. As midnight approached on 31st December 1999 the general manager and senior engineering managers augmented the normal running staff of the power station, to ensure that the contingency plans would protect the supply of electricity. Under these plans, older generating plant, not controlled by microprocessors, was run in place of the optimum merit order. In the event the passage into the next century did not cause any mishaps.
The introduction into the undertaking of more advanced procedures was accompanied by some reorganisation of the internal structure. In the mid-nineties the services planning unit, comprising staff engaged on the technical planning of new and additional supplies of electricity to properties, was transferred from the electrical engineering department to the commercial department. Under the previous arrangement when a new, or additional, supply of power was required, staff from the commercial department initially dealt with the request, ascertaining the details of the load and of the site. This information was then passed to the electrical engineering department to arrange for the work to be planned. With the new procedure one department carried out all of the preparatory work.
In the early nineties, when future requirements of generating plant was being planned, the maximum demand was behaving erratically. Although it only reached 56.7 MW during the winter of 1993/94, it had risen to nearly 59 MW three years earlier. The potential for a relatively large and sudden increase could not be ignored. The base load plant available at that time comprised 50.8 MW of slow speed Diesels, all of which were less than 20 years old, and 22.5 MW of medium speed Diesels. All of the latter were more than 25 years old and, on average, had each run more than 70,000 hours. There was also the Stal Laval gas turbine with a nominal nameplate rating of 12 MW but down-rated to 10 MW. The latter was over 20 years old, and although it had only run for 2,200 hours, the undertaking was left with no generating plant aged less than 20 years that could be used for a 'black start'. There was an empty engine bed in 'D' engine hall and the proposed submarine cable link with France remained to be decided.
Attention concentrated on a new gas turbine that could be quickly started in the event of a complete loss of power. The installation of this type of unit, with a high output, besides providing a 'black start' facility could replace the ageing medium speed Diesel plant in 'B' engine hall at less cost than replacement by Diesel plant. The thermal efficiency would be considerably lower, but, as the plant would only be run to meet base loads that exceeded the capacity of the Diesel sets, the extra fuel costs for relatively short periods would be less than the savings on the initial capital cost. In the latter months of 1994 a decision was taken to spend some £15 million on a complete refurbishment of 'B' engine hall. The project would involve the decommissioning of the medium speed Diesel generating plant over a number of years and its replacement with gas turbine generators.
After detailed research, in March 1995, two Thomassen industrial type Frame 5, gas turbine generators with Holec 11kV alternators were ordered, each with a capacity of 19.46 MW and a thermal efficiency of 26.4%. The first set, station number GT2, was commissioned in July 1996 on a temporary plinth next to 'D' engine hall and was connected to the 33kV network via a transformer. It would provide a 'black start' facility that in 3 minutes 42 seconds would supply works power to bring the remaining power station plant into operation. Its permanent site was to be in the 'B' engine hall once three of the Mirrlees KV major sets had been decommissioned.
The cold spell of weather in February 1996 raised the maximum demand to 60.3 MW and on each of five days more than one million units were generated. As soon as GT2 was commissioned a start was made on dismantling"B" engine hall sets 1, 2 and 3 in preparation for the installation of the second Thomassen gas turbine set in the area vacated by the Mirrlees engines. In the early months of 1997 the maximum demand rose by another 4 MW to 64.5, before falling off in each of the next three years to less than 60 MW in the year to February 2000.
The second large gas turbine generating set, station number GT3, was commissioned in November 1997, at which point GT2 was dismantled and re-erected in the eastern half of 'B' engine hall alongside GT3, where it was commissioned in 1998. Concurrently with this the old control room in 'B' engine hall was converted into a switch room. At the end of the first century of operations the total nameplate rating of the generating sets installed at the power station was a little over 125 MW. More than 100 MW of this was less than twenty years old. Details of the sets can be found at Appendix 2. With sufficient space available in"B" and"D" engine halls for more sets, in February 2000 plans were being made to install a further 10 MW of gas turbine plant to complement the cable link with France.
During the time that steps to meet the more immediate needs for generating plant, were being taken in the mid-nineties, the long-term future was being examined in accordance with the States resolution of 1994. That resolution had required the Board to include in its' considerations all sources of renewable energy. A survey of all of the options for providing Guernsey with electricity was published in June 1996 under the title of 'Future Electricity for Guernsey'. It was debated in the States in September of that year. It set out the advantages and disadvantages of all of the conventional thermal systems, as well as renewable energy, (wind, tide etc.), waste treatment, and cable links with the UK, Europe or Jersey. The financial implications and environmental impact of each of the options were included in the survey.
It was considered at that time that the development of systems for generating electricity using alternative energy was not sufficiently advanced to meet Guernsey's needs. The option of continued reliance on oil as the primary fuel was unattractive, the price of oil having been volatile for more than twenty years. Since 1994 the unrest in the Middle East held out no prospect of an early improvement, on the contrary, at the time that the report was published the marker price had topped $23 per barrel. As against these considerations, in Europe the trend towards the privatisation of the electricity supply industry, and the new regulatory systems, were likely to hold the price of electricity steady. Further the large number of generating stations connected to the European network used a wide range of fuels, some 22% of its combined output being generated from environmentally friendly hydro and renewable energy schemes. Consequently a shortage of one particular fuel would be less likely to endanger the supply or significantly affect the cost of electricity. There was an added advantage from the local environmental point of view, the importation of electricity through a cable link would reduce the hours in which the power station would be operating, and thus would reduce emissions.
Prior to 1992 proposals for a link with France had concentrated on a direct route, and, as already recorded, planning had gone so far as to include a marine survey and the preparation of an estimate of the cost by EdF. From 1992 there was a greater interest in a link with France via Jersey. It was reported that the cable link between JEC and EdF, which had been completed in 1983, was used to import 50% of that island's needs. The arrangement between JEC and EdF had been beneficial for both companies and, as the load in Jersey had grown, in the mid-nineties a proposal to strengthen the link was being considered. This timing was opportune; the acquisition of more generating plant was under consideration in Guernsey. The cost of increasing the capacity of the proposed Jersey to France cable link to include a supply to Guernsey would be less than proportional to the cost of strengthening the supply to Jersey alone. A joint venture therefore had attractions for both islands. Also a cable link with EdF via JEC would create the facility of the two islands supporting each other through their inter-connected thermal power stations, in the event of an emergency. With all these considerations in mind the report to the States concluded that a cable link with France via Jersey was the best choice when judged on both economic and strategic grounds. In September 1996 the States approved this conclusion.
In a period that, for GE, was remarkable for the number of major changes that were planned or executed, the decision to construct the long considered power cable link with EdF was, arguably, the one that would have the most impact on the future of the undertaking. Not only was this a major engineering project, and at the time the largest to be undertaken in the Channel Islands, but it was also a landmark in the development of a closer relationship between the islands.
The approval of the Guernsey States, in September 1996, for the construction of a power link with Jersey and France, was the signal for GE to join in the negotiations between EdF and JEC. These culminated, on July 29th 1998, in the formation of the Channel Islands Electricity Grid Company Limited (CIEG), to construct and operate a cable link for the importation of electricity from France into Jersey and Guernsey. The company was an equal partnership between JEC and GE, with full powers to enter into contracts, as necessary for the construction and maintenance of the link, and for the purchase of electricity from EdF. Co-incidentally, CIEG was formed almost exactly one hundred years after the formation of the first public electricity supply undertaking in Guernsey. It will be recalled that it was on August 6th 1898 that the law granting the original concession to Edmundsons Corporation of London was registered in the island.
The formal establishment of CIEG had been delayed due to the complicated nature of the legal agreements that were to be effective in the three jurisdictions of France, Jersey and Guernsey. However, the three parties had reached agreement in principle on many aspects of the project at an early stage in the negotiations. Consequently, the design parameters of the link were developed concurrently with the planning of the legal structure that would own it. As soon as it was formed CIEG entered into a contract with EdF to supply electricity to the islands for a period of 15 years. For Guernsey there would be a fifteen year commitment to pay, in total, some £793,000 towards the costs incurred by EdF in reinforcing its own network, and also to take each year a minimum of electricity to the value of £1,052,000, at the 1998 tariff rate.
On August 3rd 1998 CIEG appointed PB Power as its consultants for the project. Work on the preparation of specifications and contract documents had by then been completed. Consequently a contract for the installation of the power link could quickly be awarded to the successful tendering company, ABB Power T&D Limited, a subsidiary of the international engineering group Asea Brown Boveri. The total cost was estimated to be approximately £50 million. GE's share of this would be £28.22 million.
The plans for the new work involved laying an underground cable, from La Haye du Puits in Normandy to St. Remy des Landes switching station. At this point the original 50 MW, 90 kV link between La Haye du Puits substation and Jersey's La Collette power station would be connected to the new cable. From St Remy des Landes two underground cables would be laid to Surville on the French coast which would augment the existing link to provide a total capacity of 135 MW. From Surville a new submarine cable would carry the power to Archirondel in Jersey. Both existing and new submarine cables would be connected to a new switchboard at Archirondel, from where the existing cable proceeded to La Collette whilst the new cable would be laid to Queen's Road in St. Helier. From Queen's Road a new 60MW feeder would be laid underground to Greve de Lecq on the Jersey coast, then, via a submarine cable to Havelet Bay in Guernsey. At this point it would connect to three single core underground cables laid along the coast road to Barker's Quarry, about halfway between St. Peter Port and St. Sampson's power station. The cables would be terminated into a 60 MVA, 90/33kV transformer and then connected to a 33kV switchboard in a new substation to be built on this site. The 33kV feeders from the power station to Les Amballes substation would be diverted into the new switchboard.
All of the new underground cables would have three copper conductors insulated with XLPE and rated at 90 kV. All new switchgear would be of a design using sulphur hexafluoride gas (SF6) as an insulating agent. The submarine cables would include a 24 fibre, fibre-optic communication cable for control, protection and data acquisition purposes, to manage the power supply. The weight of the Jersey/Guernsey cable would be some 73kg per metre, making the weight of the whole cable about 2,700 tonnes. Two additional fibre-optic cables of the same capacity, following the same route, but separated from the power cables, would be strategically placed to provide a secure communications link. This would ensure the operation of fast automatic system protection devices in the event of damage to the power cable and main optic fibre. Some of the capacity of the optic fibre cable would be in excess of the requirements of the undertaking and would therefore be available for other commercial applications.
By mid-1997 a seabed survey, carried out by Cable and Wireless (Marine) Ltd, had provided the data from which a route for the 37km submarine cable between Greve de Lecq and Havelet Bay could be established. The survey reached the conclusion that for some 80% of this section it should be possible to lay the cable between 1 metre and 0.3 metre below the seabed. A risk management report concluded that this would be satisfactory as protection against damage from trawling fishing boats. Only small craft were used in the waters where the cable would not be covered, and these were unlikely to cause damage during fishing activities.
In Jersey work on laying the underground cable from Archirondel to the Queen's Road started in October 1998. In Guernsey laying the underground cable from Havelet Bay to Barker's Quarry was started in the early months of 1999, but was suspended for the summer months and resumed in September. While this cable was being laid the opportunity was taken to lay a pair of 11kV cables in the same trench, from the Albert Pier substation to the substation at Barker's Quarry. These, at a later date, would facilitate the strengthening of the distribution network in the town area.
In the early months of the year 2000 the task of laying the two submarine cables was the major work outstanding. The Dutch Company, Van Der Stoel Cable, was awarded the sub-contract for this part of the project to be carried out during the summer months. For this purpose the company planned to use their cable laying ship "Sea Spider" which would tow a trenching machine to bury the cable. The ship would be powered by two 2MW Diesel-electric power units and could be accurately positioned in a variety of sea conditions.
The Sea Spider
In the autumn of 1999 it was decided to delay the commissioning of the project from the original date of July 2000. The summer months were the nesting period for the Kentish plover and the shelduck, rare species of migratory birds whose breeding grounds included the stretch of coast around Surville, the point at which the cable would enter the sea. The final connection of the cable to the EdF network had been originally planned to take place at this spot in June 2000. However environmentalists feared that the work of connecting the cables would disturb the birds. The final connection at Surville, therefore, was postponed and the commissioning was deferred until September 2000 for Guernsey, and October for Jersey.
While the long-term future of the generating plant was being considered in the early nineties, the development of more sophisticated monitoring and control equipment continued. The electronic equipment ordered in 1991 for the new Control Centre had been brought into partial use in March 1994, and fully commissioned in the following February. It comprised two systems based on Digital VAX 4000-300 computers with a number of workstations and remote terminal units designed to integrate the management of the generation and distribution of electricity throughout the island. The first of the systems, Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA), monitored conditions at points on the generating plant and at the primary substations on the distribution network, and displayed the data on graphic workstations in the control centre. The second system, Power Management System (PRISMIC) used the data to control the output from the individual generators to obtain the greatest efficiency.
During the years following the commissioning of the systems, work continued on installing more sensors in the generating plant and in the primary substations. Provision would also be made to fit SCADA equipment in selected substations in the future. At the same time PRISMIC was modified, by the power station operations staff, to become more specifically targeted at the conditions in Guernsey. The resulting modified system, Generator Power Automation and Control (GENPAC), gradually replaced PRISMIC and was fully commissioned in October 1999. Using the information from SCADA it automatically balanced the load on the generators to a fine degree of accuracy, to ensure consistent peak efficiency compatible with the load on the network. In the event of a fault arising it quickly identified the problem enabling corrective action to be taken. If a generating set failed, those feeders to the primary substations that were necessary to offset the loss of output were selected and disconnected.
The GENPAC system also automated the plant maintenance records. These facilitated the planning of the maintenance schedules, taking into consideration not only the number of hours each set had run since the last overhaul, but also their efficiency and general condition as revealed by the SCADA system. One of the effects of this was to extend the period between overhauls of the Sulzer slow speed Diesel generating sets to nearly 12,000 running hours. The improvement in efficiency that this provided can be measured by comparison with the position some twenty years earlier. Then, the medium speed Mirrlees generating sets with an output of 3.8 MW were overhauled after running for only 5,000 hours.
The decision to proceed with the link with France was taken during the period in which this enhancement of the monitoring and control systems was being developed. GENPAC therefore was designed to manage the load when a part would be supplied through the link with EdF. For the control and protection of the link, the SCADA system was extended to all of the sites that formed part of the project, and also to the principal substations in Jersey.
In October 1996, during the decommissioning of the three 'B' sets, there was concern that the removal of asbestos lagging from the engine's exhaust systems would create a health risk. A major operation was launched to find and remove asbestos wherever it was possible from all areas of the site. A specialist firm was engaged to carry out this work, and by 1998 asbestos had been removed from all areas, other than those where there was no viable alternative. An exception was made to this in the case of generators 1C and 2C. After they had been inspected it was decided that these two generators should not be stripped down for the removal of asbestos until after the commissioning of the cable link with JEC and France.
Efforts to improve the utilisation of the Board's assets, by improving the system demand factor, had turned towards tariff modifications as far back as 1957. Then, to move some of the load from daytime to nighttime, the Off Peak tariff was introduced. This had only a small impact, but did raise the load factor from just below 40% to above it. Over the following years, by fine tuning the hours in which the cheaper rates were charged, there was a gradual improvement to the factor, which by the mid-eighties was averaging 45%. In 1987 the Economy 7 tariff was introduced. This had a more positive effect, as was reflected in the rise in the system demand factor during the following few years to between 47% and 50%.
The Super Economy 12 tariff was brought into use for domestic and non-domestic customers in 1993 and for customers on the industrial tariff in the following year. It introduced a more convenient range of longer low charge hours. In addition there was a more attractive differential between the rates charged for off peak units and those charged at the on peak rate. By the end of the first century of operations the Super Economy 12 Tariff had attracted 12,496 customers, some 46% of the total, and was still increasing. At the same time the system demand factor had improved to nearly 58%.
Other attempts at improving plant utilisation were not so successful. The longest-running idea to achieve this had been a proposal to operate cars by electricity supplied by batteries that could be charged overnight. Despite much research a solution to the problem of excess battery weight had continued to elude the researchers. It will be recalled that, in 1914, Edmundsons had judged that the progress being made by manufacturers towards this goal was so encouraging, that the wide use of electric cars was imminent and the company issued an instruction to managers to install charging points. This hope was not fulfilled, and over the years the battery power-to-weight ratio was not improved to any significant extent. Nevertheless GE staff had continued to take an interest in the development of electric cars and tested several types in the seventies and eighties.
In 1996 a standard Citroen AX in which the petrol engine was replaced with an electric motor was tested. Power was supplied from two-nickel cadmium batteries, one at the front and one at the rear, which could be charged from a standard 13-amp socket. The range of the vehicle between battery charges was a rather disappointing 40 to 50 miles. Vehicles with slightly better prospects were tested in 1997. Costing about £10,000 they had a top speed of 55mph, but again a range of only 50 miles. It was estimated that batteries could be fully charged in seven hours, and based on the Super Economy 12 tariff the fuel cost would be no more than 1½p per mile. In 1999 more tests were carried out. While the initial cost was not so high as to rule them out, the cost of batteries made the cars uneconomic. Batteries needed replacing every few years and cost more than £2,500 to buy, or about £100 per month to rent.
At the end of 1999, in Japan, there was considerable interest in Toyota's Prius model. This was a hybrid petrol/electricity powered vehicle with sophisticated controls that changed the motivation source from one fuel to the other to meet changing conditions. This could perhaps be the breakthrough that had been so long awaited. Otherwise, it seemed that despite all the manufacturers' efforts the advent of electrically driven vehicles remained tantalizingly close, but still out of reach.
The improved efficiency from the later type of generating plant offset a part of the increased cost of fuel, but it could not avoid its effect entirely. The tariffs set on October 1st 1995 remained unchanged for two years. Then, in the year ending March 31st 1997,the cost of oil per unit sold rose by one fifth to 1.98p bringing about a revision of the tariff. All the standing charges remained unaltered, but the unit charge on the two-part tariff was increased by 0.25p and by lesser amounts on other tariffs. There was however a reduction in the cost of electricity supplied through prepayment meters when the special meter rent was abolished. The old system of coin meters allowed the cash for power delivered through prepayment meters to lie idle awaiting collection. The new system put the cash in the hands of the Board in advance, saving the Board expense that could be passed back to the customer.
Over the next two years the price of oil fell by 16% bringing the cost of oil per unit sold down to 1.22p for the year to the end of March 1999, the lowest since the mid-seventies. This fall in the marker price of North Sea Light Crude, to less than $10 per barrel in early 1999, prompted OPEC in March to introduce restraints on production levels. Stocks in the hands of oil companies, governments and users were sufficiently high to reduce the immediate impact of the OPEC action, but over the summer months this changed. As stockpiles were run down and the autumn brought an increase in demand, the price of oil rose to a little over $25 per barrel, and remained in that vicinity until the end of the year. The restrictions on supplies had been introduced for one year and the OPEC members were exercising unprecedented cohesion in ensuring that they were applied.
At its meeting in September 1999 the OPEC Council of Ministers confirmed their intention of maintaining restrictions until March 2000 and showed no sign of relaxing the limits. It was believed in some quarters that the restraints withheld more than 4 million barrels of oil per day from the market, some 6% of world production. By the early months of the new century the strain was becoming more noticeable to the extent that prices were heading towards the $30 level. The rate of depletion of oil from the North Sea had already passed its peak, and despite the increase in output in the Middle Asian countries, the OPEC states' share of the oil market had risen to nearly 30%. The overall position was further exacerbated by the continuing rise in the quantity of oil imported into the United States of America.
By mid-February 2000 there were signs that OPEC was becoming concerned that the price was rising too much and the outcome of their March meeting was awaited with mixed feelings of expectancy. Whatever the outcome, it was gratifying for GE to know that, by the end of the year, the cable link with Jersey and France would significantly reduce the effect of OPEC decisions on the tariffs and finances of the undertaking.
The commissioning of the cable link would not bring full relief from the vagaries of the oil market, as it would not be economic to import power from EdF at the standard tariff rates during the winter months. Initially, the plan was for GE to use its thermal plant to generate during the months of October to May, but this could be varied if the spot price of EdF power became attractive during that period. As it seemed likely that it would continue to be economic to generate from oil during much of the time of maximum demand, monitoring the state of the oil market would be an on-going process.
Enhancement of the distribution network progressed at a higher than average rate during the nineties so that by February 2000 there were 363 substations in operation. The later additions included several for the States Water Board at their pumping stations, and others to strengthen the areas around Kings Club, Lefebvre Street and Vauxlaurens in St. Peter Port, as well as generally throughout the island. By February the new ll kV link between the substations at Kings Mills and L'Eclet was in an advanced stage, while the reinforcement of the link between Saumarez and Kings Mills was also under construction. One of the new substations, in the Castel between Rue de la Mare and Rue des Goddards, was given the unusual name of the 'Crow's Nest'. Research revealed that it was on a site that had previously been occupied by a 'Beer House', a title that apparently was thought to be inappropriate to a substation.
In order to ensure that the Cyclo Control signals were received satisfactorily in customers' premises in the west of the island, in 1996 additional transmitters were installed in the two 33kV substations at Les Amballes and Kings Mills. In 1999 it was planned to further improve the service by installing a transmitter in L'Eclet substation in St. Peters parish.
The replacement of overhead lines with underground cables continued as planned throughout this period. The benefit from the policy was noticeable when the gales, in the New Year of 1998, affected far fewer customers than in previous stormy winter periods. During the nineties nearly 29 kilometres of overhead lines were removed so that by early in the new century little more than 17km remained.
On the one-hundredth anniversary of the start of operations, Deputy Bill Bell remained the president of the Electricity Board. There had however, during the previous six years, been a change of general managers when John Humphreys, who had served in the post since November 1982, retired on July 12th 1995. Mr. Ian Watson succeeded him on promotion from the post of Financial Manager, a position he had held since March 1992.
During the last few years of the century there was some progress in the matter of the liquidation of the assets of the failed bank, BCCI. The liquidators made two distributions to the Electricity Board. The first, of £1.243 million was made in 1997 and the second of £1.084 million in 1998. This left the amount of £2.018 million outstanding. However, the liquidators expected to collect up to £500 million from various sources in 1999, which together with monies collected since the last distribution would enable them to pay out a total amount of about £1 billion early in 2000. There were still claims outstanding against former clients of the bank that could well prove to be unenforceable, but claims against the Bank of America and the Bank of England were still before the courts. Regarding the latter case, both the High Court and the Court of Appeal had rejected the claim, but an appeal to the House of Lords was due to be heard during the first months of the year 2000. Under the circumstances it was still too early to determine the actual loss that the Board had incurred by the failure of BCCI.
The finances of the undertaking were improved during the last few years by an increased contribution from the commercial department, which itself was helped by the healthy state of the island's economy. The introduction of the Dualheat Boilers and off peak radiators, with improved insulation and fan-assisted circulation, raised the income in both the contracting and appliance sales sections. The new type radiators, introduced in 1996, received an early boost when they were installed in 15 new houses in the Rue Frairies. A number of larger jobs provided a substantial amount of work for the contracting section staff. They included electrical work at Government House, which was refurbished in stages over a period of several years, and the wiring of a major project for liquid petroleum gas storage at the premises of the International Energy Group. The section was also engaged in a project at Castle Cornet, where the stand-by lighting battery system was refurbished in conjunction with Chloride Batteries Ltd.
During the eighties and nineties, throughout Europe there had been a move towards the privatization of publicly owned utility undertakings. Where these changes had been introduced customers generally, had benefited by way of improved services and reduced charges. In 1995 the Electricity Board had let it be known that it looked forward to a change in its status that would give it freedom to adopt more commercial style practices, a suggestion that received the support of the Guernsey Chamber of Commerce. It was the view within GE that the status of the undertaking, as a committee of the States, had inhibited it in operating at the level of efficiency of which it was capable. This had led to frustration, and an increasing desire to be allowed to conduct its business without those constraints that were appropriate to services financed from General Revenue.
In its Policy and Resources Planning Report for 1996 the Advisory and Finance Committee accepted that the existing arrangements for Trading Boards were not satisfactory, and in the following year the Report reviewed the need for the rationalization of all States Committees. In order to identify the objectives of any proposed change in their status, a workshop for each trading board was established. The workshop for the GE comprised, senior GE executives, together with representatives of the States of Deliberation and its pivotal committees, the States Electricity Board and the UK Electricity Supply Industry, together with an international economist. The report of the workshops led to discussions which concluded that the control exercised by the States over trading boards in general, was too tight at the operational level, but too loose at the strategic level.
As a result in 1998 the States of Deliberation considered a recommendation that GE should be commercialized and established as a company, wholly owned by the States of Guernsey. This received general approval and the Board was asked to prepare, in liaison with the appropriate States committees, details of the proposed organisation and of the transition arrangements for consideration in the early days of the new century. At this point the indications were that, after two thirds of a century during which control from the centre had progressively tightened, there would be a return to a form of control more appropriate to a commercial organisation.
From July 1st 1933, the day that the States acquired the undertaking from Guernsey Electric Light and Power Company, to March 31st 1999, the date of the last published balance sheet, the net assets of the SEB increased from nil to £91.5 million. Whilst achieving this satisfactory position, the undertaking had consistently met its obligations as set out in the 1933 law, with the single exception of the years of the occupation. In doing so it had continuously reached a high standard of efficiency.
During the one hundred years since it started operating on February 20th 1900 the undertaking sold more than 6½ billion units of electricity, which involved generating more than 8 billion kWh's. The thermal efficiency of the generating plant had progressively increased to 43%; it had been 16.5% in 1923. The system load factor reached more nearly 58%, while it was only 19% in 1910. Also the distribution system losses had been reduced to about 9½%, a little more than one half of the losses fifty years earlier. The undertaking had successfully met the surges in the demand for power that followed the end of the two world wars by progressively increasing its generating capacity, and by extending and strengthening the distribution network, at a rate that kept ahead of the demand.
The undertaking also had survived the oil shocks of the seventies and eighties and in the last few years of the period, had embraced technological developments in its search for improved efficiency in generation, distribution, customer relations and internal administration. Over so long a period as a century, it would be unwise to attempt to pronounce on the single most significant achievement of the undertaking. The landmarks along the way are apparent, but any list of the most influential would surely include those two projects that at February 20th 2000 were on the list of 'unfinished business'. They were of course the power cable link with France and Jersey, and the proposed return of the electricity supply industry in Guernsey to a commercial style operation.
Looking back to the beginning of the century, it is difficult to recall that those few who took the decision to invest in the electricity supply industry in Guernsey, were pioneers in a field"where no man had gone before". Progress throughout the first fifty years was made despite apathy in a public with a low-income level. The second half brought a society, growing in affluence, that demanded an ever-increasing supply of electricity. It was conjectured in the early stages of the century that, those involved in establishing the industry in Guernsey, could not possibly have foreseen where their pioneering efforts would lead. In looking ahead at the possibilities for the second century, the only guidance to be derived from the past is that GE should expect the inconceivable.