Utility Week

UTILITY Week 5th September 2014

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6 | 12th - 18th September 2014 | UtILItY WeeK People & Opinion Who do you call when the lights go out? Networks firms are pulling out all the stops to deliver a UK-wide single emergency number. Chief executive's view David Smith, Energy Networks Association I n the UK we benefit from one of the most reliable electric- ity networks anywhere in the world. However, as the severe weather in 2013 demonstrated, no network can be 100 per cent resilient and on occasion power outages will occur. Network companies work all year round to limit outages, but they are also committed to ensuring that if customers do lose power they are able to receive up-to-date information, advice and support if neces- sary. Effective communication with customers is a vital part of the network industry's response during an emergency incident, and it is an area where great pro- gress will be made in the coming months and years on the back of some important lessons from last winter. One of those lessons was that customers were oen unsure of who to call when they lost their electricity supply. A con- sequence of having such a reli- able network is that most people rarely have a need to contact their network operator and may not know which company it is, or what number to contact them on. The regional variety in emer- gency numbers across different network companies has added to the confusion and prevented a clear, national message around who to call when the lights go out. It is a problem that was high- lighted during the review of last winter's storms, and the indus- try has wasted no time in start- ing work on a solution: a single national telephone number for the general public to con- tact their distribution network operator. Energy Networks Association has taken on responsibility for delivering the single emergency number (SEN) project, with the aim of providing a three-digit number that will automatically connect customers with the right company for their area, whether calling from a landline or mobile anywhere in Great Britain. Despite being a relatively simple concept, the delivery of a three-digit number is a sur- prisingly complex undertaking, with stringent criteria set out by the communications regulator Ofcom. Similar three-digit number projects have taken over five years to complete. That the electricity networks will aim to launch a three-digit number in little over two years is testament to the importance the industry places on the work to enhance communication with customers. The SEN project will also play a central role in the network industry's wider effort to raise its profile, an issue I have previ- ously addressed in this column. Ahead of the launch there will be a national campaign to inform people of the new number, and at the same time raise awareness of the role our energy networks to improve public understanding of this vital sector. The networks industry takes its duty of care to customers very seriously. Though rare, power outages are distressing and can have very serious safety and wel- fare implications for the public. The SEN will help people receive important information and advice when they lose power. It is a very worthwhile project, and one which ENA and electricity network operators are working hard to deliver for customers. What utilities can learn from… manufaCturing Gareth Stace, head of climate and environment policy at manu- facturer's organisation EEF says: "Innovation is a key part of manu- facturers' growth strategies. "Those companies which have an innovation strategy in place perform more strongly against key indicators and are more productive. "A clear innovation strategy is the essential bedrock for a culture of innovation and leads to stronger performance in both selecting and developing ideas. This in turn serves to re-enforce performance." The economy and trust in business Alongside its most recent economic outlook report, business group the Confederation of british Industry (CbI) launched a campaign for renewed trust in business as "a force for good". the CbI's economic forecast said the UK's recovery was robust but warned that uncertainty, particu- larly emanating from from eastern europe and the middle east, could cause a slowdown in growth in the second half of the year as well as putting upward pressure on com- modity prices. With this backdrop, the CbI's deputy director, Katja hall, said it was essential to raise levels of public acknowledgement of the contribution business makes to a better society. to support this, the CbI launched the Great business Debate – a twitter campaign and website. According to a You Gov poll carried out for the CbI, even while our economy is "fizzing with vitality", only 53 per cent of the public believe that business makes a posi- tive contribution to society.

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