28 APRIL 1961, Page 23

Power via Oil


A SIGNIFICANT new factor in industrial costs


in Northern Ireland has been produced by the introduction of oil-firing at the Electricity Board's new power station at Coolkeeragh, four miles north-cast of Londonderry. Because Ulster has no workable coal of its own, it has not been able to follow the practice of many areas in Great Britain of siting its power stations near the coal- fields and so saving freight charges on their fuel.

Oil-firing seems a logical answer, and at the present time the competitive prices of oil com- pared with coal have enabled the Board to keep the running costs at Coolkeeragh much nearer to those at both oil- and coal-fired stations in Great Britain.

The complex pattern of electricity distribution in Northern Ireland does not prevent the benefits of this from being passed on to consumers all over the province. The Board's area covers all six counties, with the exception of Belfast and district and Londonderry, which are served by their Corporation undertakings. But the three producing bodies combine in the Ni Joint Electricity Committee, from which they recover the costs• of production at their stations. and from which they also buy back the current for customers in their own areas. So the consumers of all three undertakings get the advantage of the lower fuel costs at Coolkeeragh.

These are considerable. In the Board's area. for example, the reduction in 1960 for the lower fuel costs alone was 1:135,000, and consumers also saved another tl 95.000 by an amendment to the fuel clause. The total, £330,000, repre- sented about 5.1 per cent. of the total revenue from the sales of electricity. For big consumers, the average price per unit fell by as much as 8-10 per cent. This was in the face of increases in interest rates, salaries and wages, and of a reduction in the working week. There should be more to come. Coolkeeragh at present is only a 60 MW station, but one additional 60 MW set will be commissioned by September, and another of the same size in the winter of 1963-64. By extending the station building, the Board could accommodate three more such sets.

Whether this becomes necessary or not de- pends largely on industrial expansion. Last year the number of units sold for all purposes was 867,001,813, representing an increase of about one-quarter on 1959. Almdst half of this went to two large industrial concerns adjacent to Cool- keeragh, but even over the rest of the system there was an increase of 13 per cent