3 DECEMBER 1954, Page 14


SIR,--The article on 'Clean Air' by Dr. Somer- ville Hastings, MP, in your issue of November 19 is a welcome indication that our legislators arc alert to this very urgent problem, and while most of the article is sound, your con- tributor goes sadly astray in the concluding sentences.

To advocate the more extensive use of electricity for space heating, and the wholesale supplanting by electricity of all stationary fires, in factories, hospitals, hotels and flats, betrays a more misguided faith than that of those who advocate smokeless fuels and smokeless zones.

Electricity for ordinary- space or water heating uses more coal than the modern appliances available for open fires, nearly twice as much as some open fires with back boilers and small central heating systems, nearly three times as much as central heating systems for flats and even more still than the combined heat and power systems in use both in many old fashioned factories and in many up-to-date factories and hospitals.

Your contributor says no doubt there is some extra cost, but has Qr. Hastings counted the cost ?

Quite recently a demand for a trifle of £700 million for extending electricity was before the House of Commons, but to go all electric for all dwellings alone would require a total generating capacity of nearly five times the present capacity, and a fuel consumption of nearly three times the present by electricity generating stations. This for dwellings alone in addition to the existing load for commerce and industry.

The capital cost of such an uneconomic extension would be nearer ten times the trifle of £700 million already projected, truly a preposterous and obviously uneconomic figure.

These electrical enthusiasts have run riot— electricity for general space heating is un- economic both in fuel and capital cost.

The advocates for smokeless fuels and smokeless zones which depend on improved efficiency of varied types of appliances, whether open fires, gas heating, central heating and the all too little used combined heat and power systems, can all make a far greater contribution to clean air than Dr. Hastings suggests, and at the same time will leave a little capital available for other urgent national projects.—Yours faithfully,