How did the Electrical Development Association attempt to mould domestic electricity demand in Britain, 1945-1964?
Research, Report, Book
- Publisher: Realising Transition Pathways Project, Cardiff
Demand management in Britain is not new. We suggest that there is value in exploring earlier experiences, for the insights they offer into the culture and practices of the electricity supply industry and into the challenges demand management faces today. The paper focuses on the two decades after the Second World War, in which the UK electricity supply industry tried to mould and shift the time profile of electricity demand, especially for domestic heating. Between 1945 and 1964 the Electrical Development Association (EDA) was an industry actor that worked to impact domestic electricity demand. As the industry’s central public relations arm, its main role was to promote electricity and its use, although in this period it also attempted to reduce domestic demand at peaks, especially for space heating. In the late 1940s, when electricity supply was very tight, it did this by advertising to discourage the use of electric fires. Later, the EDA encouraged the take-up of off-peak appliances, such as night-storage heaters, and considered these promotional activities successful attempts at load-shifting. The EDA is thus an interesting case of demand management by an organisation whose main interest was to increase, not decrease, the use of electricity, a position not unlike that of most large electricity utilities today.\ud The paper explores EDA’s stated reasons for engaging with demand management and the context of their work in this area, including shifting government policies and social changes and competition from other fuels and technologies, in an attempt to understand the viewpoint and actions of one of the industry’s influential but traditional actors. The EDA was constantly negotiating between critical views of its work, from both within and without the electricity industry, and their own organisation’s desires both to promote electricity and shift demand off-peak. These negotiations are shown to have influenced their demand management work. The paper also investigates, partly as a reality-check against EDA’s self-promotion, what types of heating appliances were actually used and preferred by domestic consumers.