Utility Week

UTILITY Week 11th July 2014

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the village of Walcott, Norfolk, aer a huge tidal surge on 5 December le a trail of destruction. In addition to their core role of electri- cal repair works, staff helped residents clear their homes, set up a collection for blankets, clothes and toys in the Ipswich and Bury offices, and provided a hub for the village at their mobile command vehicle. James Black- ett, field staff supervisor, said: "It was a very disturbing place to work and a lot of people were upset. It was an experience that will stay with me and the whole team for the rest of our lives. We were just human beings who felt compelled to help." The commitment of the industry's staff to public service is not only demonstrated at times of national emergency. Eoin Hennessy, a contractor working for Bord Gais Networks, also received recognition at the Utility Week Stars Awards for helping a vulnerable elderly couple he came across while carrying out his day-to-day work. The couple, who were both in their 80s, were in poor health and living in terrible conditions in a house that was falling down around them. They were isolated from their community and if it hadn't been for Eoin's visit their struggle would have continued. Demonstrating the values that are inherent in the industry's workforce, Eoin took action, and in his spare time rebuilt the couple's home with materials donated by local busi- nesses and got them the help and support they needed from the local authority. These are just two relatively recent exam- 6 | 11th - 17th July 2014 | utIlIty WEEK Comment O n 9 July, the Energy Networks Asso- ciation hosted an event in Parliament to recognise the efforts of the net- work industry's workforce during the severe weather events throughout the winter of 2013/14. The health and safety minister, Mike Penning, joined fellow MPs, union repre- sentatives and journalists to pay tribute to electricity network engineers and present certificates of recognition to selected individ- uals for their work during the storms. The exceptionally severe weather over the winter inflicted the most significant damage to our energy infrastructure in over a decade. Over the Christmas period alone almost one million homes lost power, and along with the St Jude storm in October, the coastal flooding in early December and the Valentine's Day storm this year, it was a sustained period of intense pressure on our networks. Looking back at the experience from the relative calm of summer, it is important to highlight the role of the engineers who worked tirelessly in hazardous conditions to ensure that 95 per cent of those who lost power had it restored within 24 hours. Despite the extremely difficult environment and complexity of the work undertaken, only one minor health and safety incident was reported across the three major storms. It was an effective and thoroughly professional response which network companies can be proud of, and which the minister thanked the industry for on behalf of the government. The storms brought the networks and their workforce to national attention over the Christmas period, but engineers in both gas and electricity transmission and distribution provide a vital service 24/7, 365 days a year to deliver energy to the nation's homes and businesses. As the recent Utility Week Stars Awards demonstrated, the people who work for our networks oen go above and beyond the call of duty. A UK Power Networks team of linesmen, jointers, line patrollers and field staff super- visors were named operational Team of the Year at the awards. They were singled out for their contribution to the relief effort in The human face of networks All too often the hard work of the men and women who keep the gas and power flowing goes unacknowledged, so we must celebrate their rare moments of recognition. Chief executive's view David Smith, Energy Networks Association ples of the remarkable work that is carried out by network staff across the UK and Ire- land on a frequent basis. The last time I wrote the Chief Executive's View for Utility Week I spoke about the need for the network sector to raise its voice and point to its achievements as scrutiny of the industry increases. I believe the dedication and expertise of our workforce should be at the forefront of what we showcase, along- side the network's outstanding reliability, commitment to innovation, contribution to employment and skills across the UK, and their overall economic impact. Against a background of costs set to remain flat into the next decade, it all dem- onstrates the remarkable value for money of our networks. UK consumers pay around 83p a day for a network that is safe, reliable and ready for the challenges of the coming years, not to mention a workforce operating all year round to maintain vital infrastructure and combat extreme elements in carrying out their duties. The networks have been described as a fourth emergency service, but all too oen the work of the operational teams on the ground is taken for granted. With so much debate raging around all aspects of energy policy, it is important to take the time to remember the work of these unsung heroes. I'm pleased that our event in Parliament was able to provide that opportunity, and I would like to thank all those who attended and all the hard working, dedicated men and women of our sector who they represented. "The storms brought the networks and their workforce to national attention over the Christmas period, but gas and electricity engineers provide a vital service 24/7, 365 days a year"

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