Distribution: the Drift into Stalemate

  • Leslie Hannah


By the 1930s there were more than six hundred franchised electricity supply undertakings. The precise number depends on how one defines a franchise area —for some companies owned two adjacent ‘undertakings’ — but the main burden of development fell on the larger and medium-sized municipalities and companies, only two hundred of which accounted for well over 90 per cent of all sales and investment by the industry.1Although the Central Electricity Board had in 1927 taken over responsibility for constructing the major regional transmission networks, it was the undertakings themselves which financed the belated frequency standardisation programme (through a levy imposed by the Commissioners) and they also were responsible for raising the capital for, and building and operating, the new Grid power-stations — though, as we have seen, the CEB repaid them on the agreed scale of interest and depreciation and some of them sought design assistance from consulting engineers. They were also entirely responsible (subject to the supervision of the Electricity Commissioners on some technical and financial matters) for the development of distribution. We have seen that the Weir Committee felt the undertakings might have difficulty raising the capital for power-stations without government guarantee and that they had some doubts about the level of commercial management skills in the industry, but the fact that the municipal and company undertakings had been able to exploit the technical and market opportunities of the late 1920s and 1930s, and make up a good deal of Britain’s backlog in electrical development, suggests that the worst of these difficulties had largely been overcome.


Local Authority Electricity Supply Supply Industry Company Sector English Electric 
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Notes on the Text

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Copyright information

© The Electricity Council 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • Leslie Hannah
    • 1
  1. 1.Emmanuel CollegeCambridgeUK

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