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War Economy

Coal for Industry

Coal for Industry

Coal consumption at the outbreak of war was running at about 2,400,000 tons a year. It increased, by 1943, to rather more than 2,800,000 tons a year, at which level it was to remain until it declined in the early 1950s.

Coal used in factories1 increased from 540,000 tons in 1939 to 750,000 tons in 1945. A good deal of this extra coal was used for heating rather than for generation of steam power. As we have seen,2 horsepower of steam engines in factories decreased considerably over this same period. In 1939 nearly two-thirds of all coal used in factories was required for dairy factories, meat works, lime crushing and cement making. These industries increased their coal consumption 14 per cent over the war years. The diversity of new manufacturing industries which sprang up during the war brought new demands for all forms of power and, in spite of the tendency to swing to electricity and oil, the demand for coal for factories increased by 39 per cent between 1939 and 1945. In the same period electric power consumption by factories and commercial undertakings increased by 55 per cent.

The bulk of New Zealand's electric power was water generated, 77 per cent of the horsepower of the electric supply installations being of this type in 1937–38. Even here, coal-burning installations were tending to lose position relatively. The steam powered generators accounted for 18 per cent of the horsepower of all electric supply installations in 1937–38, but for only 10.5 per cent by 1947–48. In the latter year 96 per cent of electric power was generated in hydro-electric units.

1 Excluding electricity and gas generation.

2 p. 423.