Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Conde, Harold Graydon (1898–1959)

by Sarah Vallance

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

Harold Graydon Conde (1898-1959), engineer and public servant, was born on 18 June 1898 at West End, Brisbane, son of English-born parents Alfred Conde, carter, and his wife Ann, née Hinchcliffe. Harold received his early engineering training in New Zealand. In 1925 he was sponsored by the Auckland Power Board to take courses of special training with the Thomson Houston Co. Ltd in England and the General Electric Co. in the United States of America. Conde came back to New Zealand in 1929 and later that year joined the Electric Light and Power Supply Corporation Ltd (also known as the Balmain Co.) in Sydney as distribution engineer. He rose to chief assistant engineer in 1934 and general manager of the company in 1938.

In June 1945 J. B. Chifley appointed Conde chairman of the War Establishments Investigating Committee which was convened to accelerate the process of releasing from the army 30,000 servicemen urgently needed in industry. Next year the prime minister asked him to investigate alleged irregularities in the disposal of army equipment; Conde found no evidence to support the charges.

Having returned in 1947 to manage the Balmain Co., in 1949 Conde became emergency electricity commissioner, charged by the State government with responsibility for overcoming widespread and frequent failures in power supply. He soon recognized the inadequacy of existing generating capacity and devised a scheme whereby particular regions in Sydney were blacked out on a roster system. A 'blackout bureau' was established to inform consumers of projected power cuts. The immediate postwar power problems, and his efforts to alleviate them, drew attention to the need for more fundamental reform. In May 1950 the Electricity Commission of New South Wales was set up. Conde was appointed full-time chairman and chief executive officer; he had four part-time commissioners to support him.

The Electricity Commission endeavoured to eliminate power shortages by planning additional generating stations and improved transmission facilities. Seven 'package' steam-generating stations were ordered from the U.S.A. and in May 1951 Conde flew there to expedite delivery. He returned to Australia in September and secured approval for immediate installation of the new plant. On 25 May 1953 all restrictions on the use of power in New South Wales were lifted. That year Conde was appointed to the interim advisory council which reported to Federal and State governments on the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme.

In 1954 the Electricity Commission of New South Wales announced cuts in bulk energy charges. Between 1950 and 1960 the commission more than trebled power capacity, from 490 megawatts to 1800. It expanded units at Bunnerong, White Bay and Balmain, developed the Pyrmont 'B' station, and established new stations at Tallawarra, near Port Kembla (1954), Wangi, at Lake Macquarie (1956), and Wallerawang, near Lithgow (1957).

Conde was a tall man of sturdy build. Shy and self-contained, he never married. He enjoyed swimming and gardening, and was a keen apiarist. In 1955 he was appointed C.M.G. He died of pneumonia complicating rheumatic heart disease on 5 October 1959 at Mosman and was cremated with Anglican rites; his estate was sworn for probate at £86,752. In 1961 the New South Wales Local Government Electricity Association and the Electricity Commission established two awards to commemorate Conde's contribution as chairman of the commission.

Select Bibliography

  • Electricity Commission of New South Wales, A Decade of Progress (Syd, 1960) and Network, Oct 1959, May, July, Nov 1961
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 11 June 1945, 6 Oct 1959, 17 Dec 1981
  • private information.

Citation details

Sarah Vallance, 'Conde, Harold Graydon (1898–1959)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/conde-harold-graydon-9801/text17325, published in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 24 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

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