Scottish Hydro Electric Power Distribution (SHEPD) is gearing up for winter with a multi-million pound investment programme and a wide range of projects and activities to maintain and strengthen its electricity network.
SHEPD is the company responsible for distributing electricity in Scotland north of the Central Belt, and has been busy preparing for all eventualities following the last two winters’ extreme conditions.
In 2011/12 the company plans to invest around £45M maintaining and upgrading its distribution networks, essential for keeping the lights on for its 700,000 customers.
Line patrols have taken place to give a strategic detailed view of the electricity network condition. Particular attention has been placed on the main fault areas from last year to identify parts which may have caused problems again, enabling SHEPD to take proactive steps to help prevent reoccurrences this year.
Some of the other activities that SHEPD have carried out throughout Scotland include:-
- Ongoing maintenance and refurbishment of the overhead network to ensure its reliability and security, with over £16m of investment in this activity alone;
- Undergrounding of the electricity network which had previously been on overhead lines passing over the A9 around Auchterarder, one of Scotland’s busiest arterial routes, which was badly affected last winter due to a build up of snow and ice on the overhead line – this will help ensure that any faults on this part of the network should not impact road users;
- To aid access an additional ten 4X4 vehicles have been brought in to help ensure engineers are able to reach the more remote parts of the network which can be difficult to reach in bad weather;
- To help improve the service to customers during interruptions, street surveys have taken placed across the country, finding out what customers expect during outages and how customers would like to be kept updated;
- SHEPD have strengthened their mobile generation fleet, allowing supplies to be restored quickly in the event of interruptions whilst permanent repairs take place;
- SHEPDs Tree Cutting division have taken proactive steps to remove trees and branches which posed a risk of coming into contact with overhead lines, clearing over 1000km of the network;
- Safety checks on all SHEPD vehicles have taken place to ensure they are able to withstand winter conditions.
- Working closely with local authorities to co-ordinate access to snow moving equipment in the event it is required. Access in heavy snow can be the biggest challenge crews face.
Managing Director for Networks, Mark Mathieson, said: “This ongoing investment work throughout Scotland will mean our network is more robust than ever before. The last two winters saw severe conditions but despite the prolonged, and at times freak snow storms and subzero temperatures across the country, the overhead electricity network withstood the meteorological battering well. Without this significant ongoing investment program throughout Scotland, winter storms could cause more damage.”
SHEPD has introduced advanced weather monitoring systems which allow plans to be put in place that will give staff more time to plan ahead and be ready for severe weather. This means it is far easier to mobilise crews, materials and equipment as quickly as necessary.
SHEPDs own meteorologist Simon Cardy, said: “We go into great detail monitoring weather conditions all around the world to discern long-term weather patterns and trends, and during the winter we’re providing local information on a daily and sometimes hourly basis to all our businesses around the local area.”
It is critical in an emergency that customers can get information they require. SHEPD has a tried and tested storm plan to ensure correct levels of staffing in its depots and call centres.
If customers do find themselves without electricity, the emergency contact number for them to call is 0800 300 999. SHEPD have also launched a new on-line service which will be updated live with details of any major interruptions to supply, providing real time information and advice for customers experiencing loss of supply. The website is available at www.ssepd.co.uk/Home/.
SHEPD have been working with the Scottish Government and local authorities over the past year to refine mutual plans to manage bad weather events and ensure actions are co-ordinated, with protocols developed to ensure the most vulnerable in communities are given the maximum levels of support possible.
SHEPD is also supporting the Scottish Government’s ‘Ready Scotland’ winter campaign, which provides invaluable advice on preparing for and dealing with the winter conditions. Scotland’s Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill, who has responsibility for resilience issues, said: "Getting ready for winter is something we all need to do. This campaign will show the simple steps we can all take to achieve this, and play our part in helping Scotland be better prepared, whatever the weather throws at us." To find out more about the Scottish Government’s campaign, visit www.readyscotland.org/.