Half-Price Electricity?

  • Leslie Hannah


The impact of power cuts in an advanced industrial society is inevitably serious. In the circumstances of the 1940s, it was felt most by the large industrial users, who could be contacted quickly to switch off demand ‘voluntarily’ to avoid the collapse of the supply system which would follow if the load were too great and the frequency were allowed to drop below the safe minimum. Voltages were also cut, producing an annoying slowness in the cooking of breakfasts and a reduction in the output of heating appliances, but again there were practical limits to the relief of the peak load by this means. All consumers were urged to ‘switch off at the peak’ and in periods of severe difficulties moral suasion was backed up by statutory controls, though for small consumers these were practically impossible to enforce, so that voluntary restriction remained the more important. The cooperation of consumers enabled the disruption of production to be minimised; and the industry’s expertise in avoiding the more serious problems developed with experience and with the higher priorities they were granted for scarce coal supplies after the disastrous crisis of February 1947.


Central Authority Domestic Consumer Capital Charge Electricity Tariff Differential Charge 
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Notes and References

  1. 4.
    Some of the problems are discussed by Sir Norman Chester, The Nationalisation of British Industry 1945–1951 (1975) chs 3 and 4, and H. Gaitskell, H C Deb., vol. 447, col. 232, 10 February 1948.Google Scholar
  2. 10.
    H. Dalton, Principles of Public Finance, 4th edn (1954) pp. 132–3; C. A. R. Crosland, ‘Prices and Costs in Nationalised Undertakings’, Oxford Economic Papers, new series, vol. 2, 1950.Google Scholar
  3. 16.
    Partially quoted in P. Williams, Hugh Gaitskell, A Political Biography (1979) p. 175. A fuller version of the diary is to be published.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Electricity Council 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • Leslie Hannah
    • 1
  1. 1.London School of EconomicsUK

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