Industry: water, steel & energy

Gronow, Colin (8 of 9). An Oral History of the Electricity Supply in the UK

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  • Recording date

    2014-10-22, 2014-10-18, 2014-12-16, 2015-01-35

  • Interviewees

    Gronow, Colin, 1929- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 8: Remarks on move to Electricity Council: CG spending 14 years at SSEB, unsuccessfully applying for jobs elsewhere; retirement of Marketing Adviser Charles George and appointment of Francis Tombs as Electricity Council Chairman opening up way for CG to join Electricity Council; anecdote about former colleagues Tombs and Ben Hastings being on CG interview panel; CG hoping for more challenging job in marketing, commercial work becoming staid. [01:40] Comments on job of Marketing Adviser: responsibility for national electricity marketing campaigns for whole industry in coordination with Area Boards; 100 person department, divided into industrial, commercial and domestic marketing; annual discussions of policy with Area Boards; disagreements with Area Boards, CG arranging swap of staff members with Area Board to improve relations; some Electricity Council staff having no experience of Area Boards; [05:30] several advertising agencies for different sectors; advertising agency hospitality at theatres and Glyndebourne, an accepted part of business life; CG finding advertising fascinating and creative; storage heater advertising campaign, in competition with gas industry; [09:10] marketing of electric furnaces to steel industry; industrial and commercial advertising based on trade journals, domestic customers targeted through television; large sums spent on advertising; annual industry marketing conferences, important in informing sales and commercial staff of area boards. [12:45] Description of offices and working at 30 Millbank in London: division of building between departments; Roger Farrance department dealing with industrial relations policy; comfortable office condition with view over river. [15:50] Further remarks on marketing: marketing conferences taking much time to prepare; monthly meetings with Area Board colleagues, coordinating marketing efforts; anecdote about CG and Francis Tombs hosting royal visit at Ideal Home Exhibition, CG faux pas with Prince Philip and explanation of induction heating to Queen. [21:10] Remarks on meeting notable people whilst at the Electricity Council: CG informing politician Tony Blair about difficulties of privatisation; CG meeting Labour Party leader John Smith on visit to National Grid Control; mentions never meeting Margaret Thatcher, finding Cecil Parkinson pleasant to deal with; CG interviews with [Under-Secretary of State for Energy Nicholas Eden] and Alastair Goodlad; anecdote about meeting Norman Tebbit, who was in favour of cheaper electricity for industry. [25:40] Remarks about CG appearing at House of Commons select committees: CG part of Ray Orson led team to discuss electric cars, Trevor Churchman at Capenhurst developing better batteries; CG giving evidence on drawbacks of district heating [discussed in previous session]; select committees to gain knowledge not interrogate witnesses; [29:40] mentions inventor Clive Sinclair working on electric cars at time; electric cars not viable at time; anecdote about driving electric car to Houses of Parliament; mentions modern Japanese hybrid cars; mentions lack of progress in electric car research, recent death of Churchman, research work on lithium batteries. Further remarks on meeting with Tony Blair about privatisation. [33:30] Story about CG lunch with food critic Egon Ronay at the Connaught Hotel: anecdote about talking about [1953] England Hungary football match; Ronay preferring to cook with gas, but finding microwave useful for fish; agreement reached for Electricity Council to sponsor Ronay's restaurant guide if it listed restaurants with air conditioning. [37:45] [cont' from 37:45] Remarks on: cookers, advertising on television; CG meeting interesting people whilst working in Marketing; CG boss McGrouther not understanding much about marketing; anecdote about CG first day at Electricity Council, not knowing what to deal with job at first; CG enjoying challenging 2 years as Marketing Adviser; no interactions with CEGB on marketing. [41:50] Story about production of marketing information report for CEGB later in CG time at Electricity Council: opposition to electricity industry to marketing itself as it was a service industry, leading to CEGB's John Baker calling for report on marketing case; Baker disagreeing with initial draft of report, CG and Jack Taylor developing more comprehensive dossier on industry use of marketing. [46:00] Story about CG reluctantly becoming Commercial Adviser: Jack Taylor and others interviewed for Commercial Adviser role; Francis Tombs and rejecting all candidates and asking Ray Orson to convince CG to become Commercial Adviser, with Jack Talyor becoming Marketing Adviser; CG reluctance to take role until convinced by Francis Tombs. [47:25] Remarks on CG television appearances as Commercial Adviser: two appearance related to Economy 7 on ITV and BBC; mentions debating Economy 7 with Green Party representative on BBC; anecdote about debating lower cost electricity for pensioners with trade unionist Jack Jones, part of CG interview cut out for broadcast. [51:45] Anecdote about CG doing badly in interview for chairmanship of South Wales Electricity Board by Nicholas Eden, CG at disadvantage because of being a specialist against Deputy Chairmen. Anecdote about Frank Tombs unequivocal recommendation of CG to Alastair Goodlad for position of Central Member. [53:40] Remarks on: Commercial Adviser's department consisting of Tariffs Group, Load Forecasting Group under Terry Boley, Research Group under Jim Boggis; development of off-peak tariffs by Electricity Council in association with Arera Boards; ultimately Economy 7, for storage heaters; mentions CG earlier work on tariffs at SSEB. [57:00] Comments on electricity tariffs: electricity tariff structure allowing Area Boards responsibility for setting own prices; each board having to deal with complex task of setting prices according to nationally agreed tariff structure, example of CG experience in Scotland of having revenue forecast at different prices; formulation of national tariff structure at Council, but prices set by boards to meet costs; industry income based on return on assets, energy prices varied in each year to average out debts and profits, government input into pricing; [1:01:30] bulk supply tariff developed independently by CEGB based on forecast of costs, Area Boards unable to negotiate and having to adjust their prices accordingly. [1:03:20] Story about CG visit to Jersey to reshape theirs tariff: Jersey supply from local oil fired power station and imported French nuclear power; outline of CG reshaping of tariffs. [1:06:20] Short story about CG visits to help reshape tariffs on divided island of Cyprus, Christianson recommending CG for job. [1:08:10] [cont' from 1:08:10] Remarks on working in London: lack of typical day working at Electricity Council, planning often taking place to work on urgent jobs; strict 9-5 working hours of people at Electricity Council due to need to commute, contrast with variable hours in Scotland; lengthy commute to work; mentions chauffeur taking him to work. [1:10:45] Story about sale of Glasgow home and difficulty finding a similar priced flat in London, CG being gazumped, CG eventually finding flat in Fulham, contrast of flats in Glasgow and London, Deputy Chairman Austin Bunch giving CG an allowance for flat, a common solution to a common problem; CG chauffeured around London for work visits, highly necessary; essential subsidy to get people to work in London; contrast of CG salaries at SSEB and Electricity Council. [1:16:10] Remarks on: lack of social life at Electricity Council; social life of being taken on theatre visits and entertained by advertising agencies whilst Marketing Adviser; anecdote about Alan Plumpton's straightforward response to being offered hospitality.

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