Underground Electricity Transmission Lines

Oral Answers to Questions — Ministry of Power – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 25th May 1965.

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Photo of Mr Stratton Mills Mr Stratton Mills , Belfast North 12:00 am, 25th May 1965

asked the Minister of Power what research is being carried out into reducing the cost of main underground electricity transmission lines.

Photo of Sir John Morris Sir John Morris Parliamentary Secretary (Ministry of Power)

The Electricity Council and boards are seeking to reduce the cost by developing cheaper methods of insulation, including the use of plastics and gas-filled cables. They are also studying the feasibility of using super conductors, although there are considerable technical problems to be overcome before this method is likely to be practicable, and ways of reducing the cost of transmitting electricity underground by direct current.

Photo of Mr Stratton Mills Mr Stratton Mills , Belfast North

Will the Parliamentary Secretary say whether there is any prospect of this research reducing substantially the price differential of 18 to 20 times between the alternative methods? Secondly, can he confirm that the amount spent by the Central Electricity Generating Board on research in this field is about £100,000 to £200,000? Is he satisfied that that is a sufficiently high priority?

Photo of Sir John Morris Sir John Morris Parliamentary Secretary (Ministry of Power)

On the last part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, I am satisfied that no promising project is being neglected. On the first part, it is difficult to estimate how much the ratio between the cost of overhead lines and that of underground cable may be reduced as a result of research. We hope that reductions would be made, but even on the most optimistic estimate the capital cost of high voltage cable will still be much greater than that of overhead lines.

Photo of Mr Arthur Palmer Mr Arthur Palmer , Bristol Central

Would not my hon. Friend agree that if these high voltage overhead lines were placed underground it would add enormously to the industrial costs of this country?

Photo of Sir John Morris Sir John Morris Parliamentary Secretary (Ministry of Power)

I am sure the House knows that it costs about £1 million a mile for a 400 kV cable to go underground compared with £54,000 for overhead lines. Those are some of the figures involved.