Scarborough’s Electricity supply 1893-1948
A brief history written at the time of the transfer to the British Electricity Authority in April 1948.
By the Scarborough Corporation Electric Lighting Order of 1891, the Corporation obtained powers to supply electricity within the Borough. In a Deed of Transfer, dated February 1894, ‘the Company’ paid £525, transferring over the powers, duties and liabilities. There were provisions for the Corporation to re-purchase after 21 or 32 years and every 5 years thereafter. In 1900 the Corporation changed the agreement to ‘at any time’. The Scarborough Electric Supply Co operated from 1894 to 1925.
The first Directors of the Company were Richard Steble, George Smith, John Dale, John Woodall, George Lord Beeforth, John Simpson, Charles Parsons & Alan Swinton. Mr Swinton was the MD and a well-known consulting engineer in London. He prepared the specifications for the first generating plant to be installed in Scarborough that was supplied and erected by C.A.Parsons & Co., Newcastle-on-Tyne. The tender, dated January 1893, shows two 150kw steam turbine alternators with condensers, boilers etc at a cost of £7430. They were due to complete the work by June 1893.
Construction started in February 1893 and electricity flowed in August 1893. 1894 was the first full year of operation and 152kw or 86594 units were supplied. In 1904 a supply was given to Scarborough Tramways and demand rose to 774kw or 790,064 units. In 1914 demand rose to over 1 million units but during WW1 demand fell. In 1925 demand rose to nearly 2.5 million units and became the last year of the Company.
In January 1926 the Corporation took over at a cost of £173,105. There were 2 supplies, one 500v DC to the Tramway and ‘others’ and one 2000 volt 80 cycle single-phase supply. Both systems were out of date and inadequate for dealing with further development. The Corporation decided to ‘popularise and extend’ the use of electricity and tariffs were reduced in 1927. A ‘Special Order’ authorised them to supply the Borough including Scalby, Filey and Rural Districts. The chairman was Alderman Sir Meredith T. Whittaker and the Chief Engineer was Mr F Holden.
The demand that followed along with supply to the new Irton water pumping station led to the installation of a new 1875kw turbo-alternating generator. This formed the start of the 3-phase 11,000 volt 50 cycle system. The old system still had to be supplied so a 1000kw frequency changer and motor convertor had to be installed. New ‘high tension’ lines, 180 miles of underground and 70 miles of overhead, were installed along with 75 substations supplying 107 square miles of the Borough. This achievement was attributed to the ‘initiative and enterprise of the Corporation’.
Villages connected up included:- Irton, Seamer, West & East Ayton, Hutton Buscel, Wykeham, Ruston, Brompton, Sawdon, Snainton, Cayton, Lebberston, Gristhorpe, Hackness, Burniston, Cloughton, Hayburn Wyke, Staintondale & Ravenscar.
In 1929 & 1930 two 3750kw turbo-alternator sets were installed with new boiler plant and equipment. The Electricity Supply Act of 1926 demanded the centralisation of generation across the country and to establish the national grid transmission lines. In 1934 ‘the grid’ arrived in Scarborough and the generator was connected up.
The ‘rapid expansion’ from 1928-48 was put down to the ‘progressive sales development of the Corporation’. Consumers were ‘assisted’ in obtaining ‘the greatest benefit’ from the supply by means of hire and hire purchase schemes for appliances and wiring installations. Showrooms and demonstrations played ‘a notable’ part along with ‘outstanding lighting effects’ at the Open Air Theatre each summer. There was also an ‘appreciable’ industrial power demand from light engineering, furniture making, brick works, electrical switchgear, radio engineering, textiles & clothing, coach building and gravel works.
By 1948 the maximum load had risen to 10,270kw and 34 million units were sold to 17883 consumers. The capital expenditure was £900,000 with revenue of £274,000. Electricity cost 1.6d per unit.
From 1894 to 1948 the price per unit had dropped from 6d to 1.6d. The annual income is barely recorded in 1894 but increased to nearly £100,000 in 1930 and to £250,000 in 1948. Capital expenditure in 1905 was £100,000 and continued at that rate every year until 1925 when it rose to £200,000. 1930 saw £400,000, 1935, £700,000, and from 1940 to 48 over £800,000 per annum.
In 1954, the first large-scale nuclear power station in the world was opened in the UK at Calder Hall (Sellafield). The U.K.A.E.A.’s Calder Hall “A”, in Cumberland, rating 4 x 23 MW generating sets, connected to the national grid in 1956. Its primary purpose was to produce the fissile fuel plutonium, essentially for military use. The heat produced by a nuclear reaction was used to heat water to provide the steam to drive the turbines
In 2011, Scarborough’s electricity consumption was recorded at 217 GWh, giga watt hours, for 57,000 domestic users, an average of 3787 KWh per household, and 304 GWh for 6000 commercial & industrial users giving a total consumption of 522 GWh.