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The British Grid System

Nature volume 140, pages 394419 (04 September 1937) | Download Citation



IN a paper on the British Grid system by Johnstone Wright, the engineer of the Central Eléctricity Board, presented to the Engineering Institute of Canada, at Montreal in June last, an interesting account is given of the development of the Grid system in Britain. He points out that the basic unit in British local administration is the parish, the zone of influence of a single place of worship in the Middle Ages. Rural districts, urban districts and boroughs have been built up by the aggregation of parishes, and national parliamentary representation is still organized on that fundamental unit. As a consequence, in spite of many reforms, there are still more than two thousand separate authorities responsible for local community organization. Early legislation favoured supply by a local council. This favoured the setting up of a large number of small generating stations. The work of Ferranti showed the possibilities of alternating current transmission ; but the small areas resulting from the early legislation, the wide distribution of coal and its abundant supply did not give the incentive to A.o. supply that there was in other countries. In 1926, a Government committee was set up under the chairmanship of Lord Weir. The committee came to the conclusion that there was a wide difference between generation and distribution and that retail distribution was a local matter which might suitably be decentralized. The findings of this committee were the basis of the Electricity Act of 1926. A Central Electricity Board was formed to construct and operate a large number of high-tension transmission lines called a Grid. The board divided the network into nine schemes covering the whole of Great Britain except northern Scotland. Not only did the construction of the Grid have a beneficial effect upon national employment at a time of acute depression, but also the experience in high voltage construction which it entailed has placed British manufacturers once more in the forefront of technical progress.

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