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Central Electricity Generating Board

Central Electricity Generating Board
Industry Energy
Founded 1957
Headquarters London, United Kingdom
Area served
England and Wales
Footnotes / references
Broken up into National Grid Company, National Power, Powergen and later Nuclear Electric.

The Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB) was the cornerstone of the British electricity industry for almost forty years, from 1957 to privatisation in the 1990s.[1]

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 pursuing the cheapest generation route.

It was created in 1957 from the Central Electricity Authority, which had replaced the British Electricity Authority. The Electricity Council was also created at that time, as a policy-making body for the electricity supply industry.


  • Responsibilities 1
  • Structure 2
    • Constitution 2.1
    • Control of the National Grid 2.2
    • Research and development 2.3
  • Regions 3
    • Midlands Region 3.1
    • North East Region 3.2
    • South West Region 3.3
  • Privatisation 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6


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 Board and 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.



The CEGB was established by section 2 of the

It was under a duty to develop and maintain an efficient, co-ordinated and economical system of supply of electricity in bulk for all parts of England and Wales, and for that purpose to generate or acquire supplies of electricity and to provide bulk supplies of electricity for the Area Boards for distribution by those Boards. It also had power to supply bulk electricity to the Scottish Boards or electricity undertakings outside Great Britain.

There were only six chairmen of the CEGB. The first was Christopher Hinton, Baron Hinton of Bankside, served from 1957 to 1964, Sir Stanley Brown served from 1965 to 1972, Sir Arthur Hawkins from 1972 to 1977, Glyn England from 1977 to 1982, and Walter Marshall, Baron Marshall of Goring from 1982 to 1989. Gil Blackman was appointed Chairman in January this year.

Control of the National Grid

At the centre was the National Control Room of the National Grid in London, which was part of the control hierarchy for the system. There were also both area and district grid control rooms, which were originally at Newcastle upon Tyne, Leeds, Manchester, Nottingham, Birmingham, St Albans, East Grinstead and 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. They constantly anticipated demand, monitored and instructed power stations to increase, reduce or stop electricity production. They used what was known as the "merit order", a ranking of each generator in power stations based upon how much they cost to produce electricity. The objective was to ensure that electricity production was 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 Laboratories, CERL); Marchwood Engineering Laboratory (MEL); and, Berkeley Nuclear Laboratories (BNL). There were also five regional facilities and four project groups, North, South the Midlands and the Transmission Project Group. These Scientific Service Departments had a base in each Region. A major SSD role was solving engineering problems with the several designs of 500 MW units. These were a significant increase in unit size and had many teething problems, most of which were solved to result in reliable service and gave good experience towards the design of the 660 MW units.

In the 1970s and 1980s, for the real-time control of power stations the R&D team developed the Cutlass programming language and application system. After privatisation, CUTLASS systems in National Power were phased out and replaced largely with Advanced Plant Management System (APMS) - a SCADA solution developed in partnership by RWE npower (a descendant company of CEGB) and Thales UK.[3] APMS itself has since become obsolete.

In contrast, PowerGen, later taken over by E.ON, undertook a programme to port the entire system to current hardware. The most current version of Cutlass, 'PT-Cutlass Kit 9', runs on Motorola PPC-based hardware, with the engineering workstation and administrative functions provided by a standard Microsoft Windows PC. It is fully compatible (with a few minor exceptions) with the DEC PDP-11 version (kit 1) released by PowerGen and has a high level of compatibility with the final version of kit 1 formerly used at National Power.[4] It is used at four UK power stations: Ratcliffe-on-Soar, Cottam, Fiddlers Ferry, and Ferrybridge.


Midlands Region

The Midlands Region of the Central Electricity Generating Board, was one of five within the CEGB, it was responsible for the operation of 38 power stations, over 170 sub-stations and nearly 2,000 miles of Grid transmission line in an area which covered 11,000 square miles. The region produced more than a quarter of the electricity used in England and Wales and had the lion’s share of the huge industrial construction programme mounted by the CEGB during the 1960s.

In 1948 the total generating capacity of all the power stations in the Region was 2,016 MW only a little more than a modern 2,000 MW station. By 1957 the Region’s capacity was up to 4,000 MW, doubling to 8,000 MW by 1966 and rising to 14,000 MW in 1969 and 16,000 MW by 1971.

North East Region

Extending through Northumberland, Durham, the three Ridings of Yorkshire and Lindsey, North Lincolnshire the North Eastern Region was responsible for the operation of 32 power stations capable of producing 8,000 MW of electricity. 108 substations and over 1,200 route miles of overhead lines operating at 400 kV, 132 kV and 275 kV transmitted the electricity to the Yorkshire Electricity Board and the North Eastern Electricity Board for passing onto the customer.

South West Region


The electricity market in the UK was built upon the breakup of the CEGB into four companies in the 1990s. Its generation (or upstream) activities were transferred to three generating companies, 'PowerGen', 'National Power', and 'Nuclear Electric' (later 'British Energy', eventually 'EDF Energy'); and its transmission (or downstream) activities to the 'National Grid Company'.[5][6]

The shares in National Grid were distributed to the regional electricity companies prior to their own privatisation in 1990. PowerGen and National Power were privatised in 1991, with 60% stakes in each company sold to investors, the remaining 40% being held by the UK government. The privatisation process was initially delayed as it was concluded that the 'earlier decided nuclear power plant assets in National Power' would not be included in the private National Power. A new company was formed, Nuclear Electric, which would eventually own and operate the nuclear power assets, and the nuclear power stations were held in public ownership for a number of years.[7]

In 1995, the government sold its 40% stakes, and the assets of Nuclear Electric and Scottish Nuclear were both combined and split. The combination process merged operations of UK's eight most advanced nuclear plants - seven Advanced Gas Cooled Reactor (AGR) and one Pressurised Water Reactor (PWR) - into a new private company founded in 1996, 'British Energy' (now 'EDF Energy').[8][9] The splitting process created a separate company in 1996 called 'Magnox Electric' to hold the older Magnox reactors, later combined with BNFL.

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.[10]

Powergen is now E.ON UK, owned by the German utility company E.ON. National Power split into a UK business, Innogy, now 'RWE npower', owned by the German utility company RWE, and an international business, 'International Power' owned by the French company GDF Suez.

See also


  1. ^ The CEGB Story by Rob Cochrane (with additional research by Maryanna Schaefer) (1990)
  2. ^ Electricity Act 1957, section 2
  3. ^ Farewell to CUTLASS
  4. ^ CUTLASS on
  5. ^ Page 68 "Lessons from Liberalised Electricity Markets" IEA / OECD (2005)
  6. ^ "Funding Universe - History of BNFL". Retrieved 11 July 2012. 
  7. ^ "International Power PLC History". Retrieved 11 July 2012. 
  8. ^ "EDF agrees to pay $23 billion for British Energy". The New York Times. 24 September 2008. Retrieved 11 July 2012. 
  9. ^ "The sale of the Government’s interest in British Energy". Retrieved 11 July 2012. 
  10. ^ The Central Electricity Generating Board (Dissolution) Order 2001 full text
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