Industry: water, steel & energy

Camsey, Granville (9 of 16). An Oral History of the Electricity Supply in the UK

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  • Recording date

    2013-04-18, 2013-05-02, 2013-09-26, 2013-10-22, 2013-12-10, 2014-01-14, 2014-01-28, 2014-03-17, 2014-04-15

  • Recording locations

    Interviewee's home, Buckinghamshire

  • Interviewees

    Camsey, Granville, 1936- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 9: Story about secondment to Bob Peddie team to investigate multi-tariffing CALMU [Credit and Load Management Unit] system: description of innovative Bob Peddie and career outline, eventually as Chairman of SEEBoard; background disagreement between Area Boards and CEGB over bulk supply tariff price; Bob Peddie instigating study into meters and multi-tariffing; difficulties around standardised cost of electricity, legislated nature of meters, reluctance to look at concept; Peddie setting up small team with experience of generation, distribution, metering legislation, and finance to develop proposal for CALMU; [05:15] Bob Peddie's irrepressible nature and ideas in advance of technology; touring of European meter manufacturers; influence of visit to Electric Power Research Institute [EPRI]in Palo Alto, USA on Peddie's thinking; potentially industry changing nature of development, in allowing changes to power station load patterns; description of how control of customers' refrigerators or heating systems in large numbers could dramatically change load patterns; problems around use of copper wires as communication control system; [10:15] GC enjoyment of stimulating period; anecdote about Peddie presentation to German VGB trade body causing concern in CEGB, CEGB deputy chairman Fred Bonner instructing GC to keep an eye on Peddie; initiative achieving little in short term, but relevant to later developments. [13:35] Remarks on GC promotion to headquarters role as Operations Services Engineer. [14:40] Description outlining threefold role of Operational Services: handling operating information from stations to provide CEGB and Department of Energy with information; group managing national contracts for all CEGB purchases of basic supplies under National Director of Procurement Phil Willet, anecdote about overpricing of cars and ball bearings to CEGB; National Spares Group, overseeing nationwide supply of spare equipment, such as turbines and stators, to CEGB power stations, in spite of difficulties over differences between power station equipment, arrangements for allocating spare equipment to stations overseen with skill by Roy West. [20:30] Further remarks on national spares: £150 million budget; carefully planned arrangements for moving large equipment around country by Pickford's low loaders; example of use of roll-on-roll-off ferries to move equipment from manufacturers in Newcastle to Trawsfynydd power station; anecdote about GC wife launching new ferry. [23:10] Remarks on: staff work nature of Operations Services Engineer role. [23:50] Further comments on CALMU: limited bearing on GC subsequent promotion; GC earlier experiences with Bob Peddie; idea of selling hot or cold rather than electricity; evaluation of wider effects of CALMU on whole electrical system; comparison of traditional electro-mechanical metering and electronic CALMU. [28:45] Remarks on Operational Services Engineer role: membership of National Joint Industrial Council [NJIC] and National Joint Advisory Council [NJAC], GC learning about obstructive nature of trade unions in ESI attempts to change; dining in senior officers mess with senior CEGB staff, anecdote about GC working class origins contrasting with an upper-class senior member of staff, anecdote about GC practical solution to solving a Rubix cube in the mess; CEGB practice of mixing staff to see how they interacted; [35:50] CEGB treating its staff well; high quality of industrial staff; relatively easy relationships between senior staff, allowing easy voicing of critical opinions; lack of favouritism in senior CEGB appointments. [38:45] Comments on 1984-85 Miners' strike: emerging realisation that a strike was likely; 1970s experience of miners' strikes, three day week and Ted Heath's fall from power; Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher backing down in earlier dispute with miners, leading to preparation for a future strike by CEGB; stockpiling of fuel and stores at power stations allowing CEGB to guarantee electricity supply and allow miners and National Coal Board and Government to settle issue on its own terms; [42:50] influence of 1970s strikes on CEGB personnel; CEGB declaration that it was acting to supply electricity to customers not defeat miners; CEGB industrial staff sympathy with miners' point of view. [44:30] Remarks on Operational Services role in miners strike: creation of information system to monitor power stations supply of non-fuel essential materials, fed into regular Monday morning reports to Director of Operations Frank Ledger; GC and Alan Bradshaw preparations for ensuring power station vital supplies, such as of lighting up oil; risks of disruption to tankers carrying lighting up oil leading to storage of secret tanker fleet at Didcot; [49:30] anecdote about shop steward at Didcot discovering tanker fleet. [49:43] Remarks on gas turbines used to help start up power stations: shortage of gas turbine spares; Roy West suggesting asking Royal Navy to borrowing stores; anecdote about GC horror at trade union officers at meeting in Portsmouth; anecdote about Michael Heseltine denying armed forces were helping CEGB; supply of spares flown in from Falklands. [52:50] Remarks on arrangements to transport essential supplies to power stations: leaking of news of Didcot tanker fleet; secret nature of preparations; search for nearest airports to power stations, to allow use of helicopters if needed; production of special chemical tanks by Bradshaw; possibility of using American heavy lift helicopters; unionised nature of British Airway leading to arrangements with Bristow helicopter company; anecdote about test flight of helicopter being noticed by newspapers. [57:50] Remarks on: need for secrecy, CEGB not wanting to attract attention to preparations in fear of antagonising industrial staff and unionists in CEGB; some power stations in risk of labour relations troubles, leading to their shut down during strike; boards of nationalised industries managed by dedicated public servants; elements of sympathy toward miners within CEGB management due to common experiences of staff; GC long term view that Margaret Thatcher's solution to strike was wrong; [1:02:10] long term and well managed German approach to reducing mining; accuracy of Arthur Scargill's prediction that all mines in UK would be closed; GC sympathy for state management of some industries, accepting need for CEGB to change; CEGB great success in withstanding miner's strike; contingency planning never put to the test; anecdote about appeal to CEGB board member Dick Giordano, also head of BOC, over ensuring that BOC drivers would supply power stations; great freedom of action allowed to GC in contingency planning; GC regular meetings at Scotland Yard over course of strike with chief constables, anecdote about discrete government representative at meetings as a check on police political neutrality; [1:09:10] anecdote about GC being unnerved by security arrangements earlier in career at Heysham; GC at police meetings to ensure support in event of trouble supplying power stations, unnecessary in practice, and to liaise over fuel supplies operations.

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