Jersey Electricity has a special place in the Island’s social structure and economic progress. Founded in 1924, more than 40 years after Britain received its first public supply, the then Jersey Electricity Company has proved a success story, moving with the times and the increasing demand for reliable, affordable energy - and delivering it.
Jersey had installations of private plant supplying electricity as early as 1883 but it was three decades later before a public supply became possible (in St Helier at least) with the establishment of the Jersey Electricity Company in April 1924. The Company was granted a lease for a ‘generation station’ at the end of Albert Pier by the former abbatoir later that year and cable laying began in David Place.
The station was opened on 27 July 1925 and included a small retail showroom displaying lights, fans a carpet sweeper and a washing machine. By the end of the 1920s over 1,000 customers had been connected but it was a further three decades before comprehensive street lighting became available.
By 1930, unit sales exceeded one million and customers numbered just under 2,000. With continued growth predicted, the Company acquired a site for a new power station at Queen’s Road for £2,000 in November 1931. It was officially opened in May 1934. The mains network was extended west for the construction of the airport in 1934. A year later, as part of King George V Silver Jubilee, the Company successfully floodlit Elizabeth Castle by laying a temporary cable along the causeway to the Castle keep. By the end of 1935, 4,816 customers were on supply and standard lighting rate was 5d (2.1p) a unit and power was 3d (1.25p) a unit. The States acquired a controlling interest in the Company a year later in 1936 and mains could be extended to every parish.
Expansion was cut short by the German occupation in July 1940. The Company was put under the control of the Essential Services Committee. Though abandoned homes and blackout regulations reduced electricity use, customers’ consumption was increasingly rationed. Electric fires had to be surrendered and with fuel supplies under threat in 1943, new connections were prohibited, consumption restricted to four units a week and use of refrigerators banned between October and March.
By 1944, with no more fuel oil to be sent, maintaining supplies depended on the degree of economy exercised by customers. Cooking by electricity was banned in September. Occupying Forces requisitioned generating plant at Queen’s Road in January 1945 to supply premises of their choice. Staff moved back into the Power Station at 11am on V.E. Day to restore supplies, enabling some in town to hear Churchill’s speech on the wireless, but it was some weeks before all country parishes had supply. But the long haul back to normality had begun.
In the mid-Fifties, the Company sought to increase unit sales with increased electrical equipment sales, especially electric cookers on which it offered hire purchase deals and presented cookery demonstrations in the Broad Street showroom. An old mobile greengrocery van was even converted into a travelling electrical showroom and, with the advent of television, the Company collaborated with Rediffusion to become agents for the sale and rental of TV sets. From 1952 to 1955 unit sales increased 32% from 24 million to 32 million and customers increased 8% from 16,814 to 18,190, many benefiting from the introduction of cheaper tariffs for water heating and off-peak storage heating. To meet this load growth Queen’s Road capacity was increased to 17,880kW with the installation of a series of Mirrlees KVSS16 generators.
By 1962, unit sales topped 100million for the first time and maximum demand had doubled from 15.5MW to 33.8MW in six years. Mirrlees National had already been commissioned to design and build the first of two 5MW sets, known as the ‘Monarch 16’, bringing Queen’s Road capacity to 40MW. Long term, however, a site near Fort Regent was sought for new diesel or steam power station and the decision to build La Collette taken in 1963.
A 17.5MW gas turbine was installed at Queen’s Road to bridge the gap until La Collette was operational. In February 1964 the Company was first listed on the London Stock Exchange. By November 1966 the first stage of La Collette Power Station was completed and two steam boilers were producing 60MW.
By 1970, all operational staff had been withdrawn from Queen’s Road and the four 5MW Mirrlees diesel sets transferred to La Collette, bringing capacity there to 80MW. With demand still rising, La Collette was extended to accommodate another 30MW turbine. The Power Station was officially, formally opened in November 1973 and the Company marked its Golden Jubilee with staff dinner at the Hotel de France the following year.
But by now the oil crisis forced the States’ Emergency Committee to introduce compulsory savings to reduce oil use including, reduced street lighting, reduced charging times for off-peak heating and reduced voltage at peak times. Between 1973 and 1975 oil costs increased from £800,000 to £3m a year. Another 64% rise in ’79 saw the oil bill outstrip electricity revenue and forced three tariff rises in a year. A solution to end reliance on oil became inescapable. A link to France’s nuclear power was first mentioned.
The death in February 1980 of Senator Cyril Le Marquand, a Director for 27 years and Chairman for 22 years, marked the end of an era for the Company he had steered through a period of tremendous growth. As that growth continued, the decade saw the realisation of a power link with France. EDF1, our first interconnector between Surville in France and Archirondel was commissioned in May 1985, enabling the importation of low carbon electricity from the French distribution system. The Company launched the Economy 7 Tariff as a direct consequence. The Great Storm of 1987 cut supplies to outlying areas which took days to restore. Two gas turbines were commissioned at Queen’s Road to provide 75MW of fast start standby generation.
In 1994 a 45MW extension was opened at La Collette and the following year the decision was taken to lay a second undersea cable to France, Normandie 2, in co-operation with Guernsey Electricity. The Comfort Heat tariff was launched in 1996.
The 90MW Normandie 2 was commissioned in 2000 along with a 60MW inter-connector to Guernsey, creating the Channel Islands Electricity Grid (CIEG). That same year Queen’s Road Power Station was refurbished into office and retail space following the redevelopment of the site, including the construction of B&Q. The decade brought major reinforcement work with the start of a ten-year project to install a dual 90,000-Volt (90kV) transmission ring around the Island. This included the commissioning of Rue des Prés 90kV Primary substation in 2003, to meet increased demand in the east, and the new Western Primary substation in 2008 to meet demand in the west. In 2004, the Board committed to laying a third undersea cable to France, Normandie 3, connecting to a different part of the French grid to its two predecessors. In 2008, Mike Liston stepped down as Chief Executive after 15 years to be succeeded by Chris Ambler.
Jersey Electricity Company became Jersey Electricity plc in March 2010. 2011 marked a significant milestone when we ‘pulled through’ the final sections of cable, from South Hill to Tyneville Lane that completed the dual 90kV transmission ring around Jersey, improving security and in readiness for the commissioning of the £10m South Hill Switching Station. The year also saw the successful integration of the States’ Energy from Waste Plant into La Collette services, the decommissioning and dismantling of two 5MW Mirrlees diesel engines in readiness for the installation of two 11MW Sulzer diesel generators from Saudi Arabia.
We broke £100million turnover for the first time in 2011. South Hill Switching Station was officially opened in April 2012 and two months later our first undersea supply cable was decommissioned after 28 years’ service. La Collette was re-mobilised to supplement limited import capacity but at the end of the year, the French granted final permissions for Normandie 3 and we signed a £45m contract with Italians Prysmian Powerlink for the manufacture and installation of both the 100MW, 35km submarine cable and 7km Jersey land cable in February 2013. The following month brought the worst snow storms for a generation, damaging overhead supply cables. Jersey groundworks for Normandie 3 were completed in March 2014 and submarine cable was finally laid during May and June. The final section of the land cable was pulled through in July.
Normandie 3 was successfully energised on 23 September and began delivering power to our network 24 hours later at 1.17pm 24 September.
In May 2014 we were granted Planning Permission to build a new primary substation to reinforce our network serving the north, south and west of St Helier. Known as St Helier West, construction of the new £12m substation starts in 2015 and it is expected in service in 2016.