Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) Distribution has outlined how it would plan to make further improvements to the electricity network and its working practices during future storms. In a submission to the regulator Ofgem applying for dedicated funding to support further improvements to its storm response, SSEN has identified five projects which, if funded, would help us manage the network in an even better, more efficient way, especially during periods of severe weather.
Ofgem has invited funding applications after a review of electricity networks’ response to Storm Arwen in late 2021. SSEN’s £10m set of proposed projects will focus on making our network more resilient to severe weather and equip us with even more tools to get customers back on supply as quickly as we can once the storm has passed.
The five projects in SSEN’s application are:
- Restoring Overhead Line Resilience (£2.1m) This addresses the growing risk to overhead lines in the north of Scotland, where the network was affected by trees blown over during Storm Arwen. We want to carry out more tree-harvesting work at certain sites, to keep the network safe and reduce the impact of future storms on both power lines and forests in the area affected by Arwen.
- HV Feeder monitoring (£6.7m) This would see new monitoring devices installed on our High Voltage and Extra High Voltage networks to help us locate faults more accurately. This will help us get our teams to the right place to fix faults and get customers back on supply even more quickly. This is particularly useful during storms, where staff might have to spend time walking along the network to find the fault. This technology should reduce the amount of time spent doing this, which can instead be spent fixing faults and getting customers back on supply.
- Wood Pole Condition Assessment tools (£1m) This would see us roll-out smart tools to our teams to help them to better assess the condition of the wooden poles on the network. The tools will give us consistent and reliable measurements of a pole’s condition, helping us better understand when it needs replacing. The tools will also help staff before they climb a pole – they can use the tools to check its condition, so they know whether it’s safe to climb.
- Satellite communication systems (£0.7m) This would help communications, which are often challenging in remote areas, especially during storms, when mobile phone masts can be affected. SSEN wants to pilot a system that uses direct connections with satellites to provide a more robust communication network. This would be used in some depots, and by field staff in areas where we’ve had communications issues in the past. Teams would spend less time travelling to find a signal and more time reconnecting customers. This tech might also have the potential to support customers’ welfare during storms, by providing those without power with a connection so they can keep in touch with family and friends.
- Cross DNO interconnection (£0.1m) This would be deployed in remote sites close to the border with SP Energy Network’s licence area. It would install points of connection between the two networks, so that if one side loses supply during a storm, customers can be kept on supply from across the network boundary. It’s focused on specific sites where there is benefit to both communities, which could be adopted for a relatively low cost.
This bid for additional funding comes after SSEN committed millions of pounds of investment to support affected communities after Storm Arwen hit. In the summer of 2022, we committed funding to further strengthen network and community resilience. This money has already had a tangible benefit on the robustness of the network during extreme weather events, something we hope to build on if this request for further funding is granted.
Storm Arwen Uncertainty Mechanism
This is our main submission to Ofgem, setting out our proposals to invest in the network to make further improvements to how we prepare for, and respond to storms. The document details the five projects we plan to carry out and how we expect those to benefit our customers and our staff, particularly during times of severe weather.
Storm Arwen re-opener - summary of redactions
Some of the information in our main Storm Arwen re-opener document is commercially sensitive, confidential, or presents a security risk if published. We have therefore had to redact this information from the main document, and this document provides a summary of those redactions and the reasons for them.