company_name =Central Electricity Generating Board
company_type =Now defunct
England and Wales
footnotes = Broken up into
National Grid Company, National Power, Powergenand later Nuclear Electric.
The Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB) was the cornerstone of the British electricity industry for almost 40 years; from 1957, to
privatisationin the 1990s.
Because of its origins in the immediate post-war period, when electricity demand grew rapidly but plant and fuel availability was often unreliable, most of the industry saw its mission as to provide an adequate and secure electricity supply, or "to keep the lights on" as they put it, rather than necessarily pursuing the cheapest generation route.
The CEGB was created from the Central Electricity Authority (which in turn had replaced the
British Electricity Authority) in 1957. The Electricity Councilwas also created at that time, as a policy making body for the Electricity Supply Industry.
Under the nationalised structure, the CEGB was responsible for electricity generation in
England and Wales, whilst in Scotland electricity generation was carried out by the South of Scotland Electricity Boardand the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board.
The organisation was unusual in that most of its senior staff were professional engineers, but with excellent support in financial and risk-management areas.
Some people feel that it represented the best of Government planning, others feel that it had become a monolith that exemplified the worst aspects of central planning, and was ripe for reform. It is probably the case that, in its most successful period, up until the mid 1970s, it was managed in a way broadly comparable to large private-sector energy majors such as
BP, but that it was late to respond to the changed pattern of energy growth following the second oil crisis.
Control of the National Grid
At the centre of the CEGB's infrastructure was the National Control Room of the
National Gridlocated in London, which was part of the control hierarchy for the system at that time. There were also both Area and District Grid Control Rooms, which were originally located at Newcastle upon Tyne, Leeds, Manchester, Nottingham, Birmingham, St Albans, East Grinsteadand Bristol. The shift Control Engineers who worked in these control rooms would cost, schedule and load dispatch an economic commitment of generation to the main interconnected system (the 400/275/132kV network) at an adequate level of security. They also had information about the running costs and availability of every power producing plant in England and Wales. It was, at these control centres that they would constantly anticipate demand, monitor and instruct the power stations to either produce or reduce electricity production, or stop producing electricity altogether. They used what was known as the " merit order" which established a system of ranking each generator in the power stations based upon how much they cost to produce electricity. The objective was to ensure that electricity production was always achieved at the lowest possible cost.
Research and Development
The CEGB had an extensive R&D section with its three principal laboratories at:
Leatherhead(Central Electricity Research Laboratory, CERL); MarchwoodEngineering Laboratory (MEL); and, Berkeley Nuclear Laboratories (BNL). There were also at one time, five regional facilities.
Although electricity privatisation began in 1990, the CEGB continued to exist until "The Central Electricity Generating Board (Dissolution) Order 2001", a
Statutory Instrument, came into force on 9 November 2001.
electricity marketin the UK was built upon the breakup of the CEGB initially into two generating companies and the National Grid Company. So National Grid, PowerGenand National Powerwere privatised in the early 1990s. However the privatisation process was delayed as the Nuclear component in National Powerwas removed and vested in a new company called Nuclear Electric. Thus all the Nuclear Power Stations were held in public ownership for a number of years, before merging parts of Nuclear Electric with Scottish Nuclear in 1995 and privatising the new company British Energyin 1996. A proportion of the old CEGB's nuclear stations, its older Magnoxreactors, remained in public ownership as Magnox Electric, and were later combined with BNFL.
Powergen is now owned by the German utility company
E.ON. National Power split into a UK business, Innogy, now owned by the German utility company RWE, and an international business, International Power.
Timeline of the UK electricity supply industry
Energy policy of the United Kingdom
Energy use and conservation in the United Kingdom
# Rob Cochrane (with additional research by Maryanna Schaefer) (1990). "The CEGB Story". CEGB.
# [http://www.legislation.hmso.gov.uk/si/si2001/20013421.htm The Central Electricity Generating Board (Dissolution) Order 2001] full text.
# [http://www.iea.org/textbase/nppdf/free/2005/lessons2005.pdf IEA / OECD (2005): "Lessons from Liberalised Electricity Markets"]
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