As the UK marks the anniversary of the first lockdown, David Smith, Chief Executive of Energy Networks Association looks at how the energy networks have been responding.
David Smith, Chief Executive of Energy Networks Association
The last year has been challenging for everyone, both professionally and personally, but especially for those who have tragically lost loved ones.
As lockdowns have become an unwelcome but necessary feature of our lives, it can be easy to forget how uncertain the situation was this time last year. For those working in the energy networks, and right across the sector, we were facing tough questions and scepticism about how we were going to keep energy flowing to homes and communities across the country while adapting to remote or restricted working. No one had experienced a situation quite like this.
I am tremendously proud of the people in the energy industry who, despite these challenges, have kept energy flowing while staying safe and keeping our customers safe. It is a powerful testament to the dedication, planning and hard work of everyone involved. This includes those most visible – out on the streets fixing faults and carrying out vital repairs and upgrades – as well as those less visible, behind the scenes helping to look after the public and in particular those who were shielding or living in vulnerable situations.
When I see how we have pulled together, worked together and continued to provide the public with the best possible service I have never been prouder to work in the industry. Ofgem’s annual report for 2019/20 saw customer service scores for our industry improve to a solid 9/10, despite the challenges towards the end of the reporting period.
We have learned to adapt, work more flexibly and re-prioritise our activities. We have enacted robust contingency plans and carried out extraordinary work from connecting Nightingale Hospitals at short notice to taking unconventional steps to keep staff safe, like National Grid did building a ‘mini-village’ to house around 70 of their workers during the pandemic.
This has been a collective effort, achieved by excellent planning, hard work and working together as one energy industry. It was fantastic to see trades union colleagues, government, Citizens Advice, Energy UK and others come together to make sure that energy kept flowing and people were kept safe.
We all have a shared interest in ensuring safe, resilient and reliable networks. It’s at the heart of what our industry does. As governments across the UK and Ireland begin to unveil roadmaps for easing lockdown restrictions, the energy network companies have developed a consistent and measured approach which continues to put the health and safety of our staff and customers first while delivering an essential service to the public. Above all, we will continue to keep our staff and customers safe and Britain’s energy flowing.
Notes to editor
This article first appeared at Utility Week on 15 March 2021, A Year of Keeping Us Connected.
About Energy Networks Association
Energy Networks Association (ENA) is the industry body representing the electricity wires, gas pipes and energy system in the UK and Ireland.
ENA helps its members meet the challenge of delivering electricity and gas to communities across the UK and Ireland safely, sustainably and reliably.
Its members include every major electricity and gas network operator in the UK and Ireland, independent operators, National Grid ESO which operates the electricity system in Great Britain and National Gas which operates the gas system in Great Britain. Its affiliate membership also includes companies with an interest in energy, including Heathrow Airport and Network Rail.
What are energy network operators?
Energy network operators manage and maintain the wires, pipes and other infrastructure which delivers electricity and gas to your home, business and community. They are private companies which are regulated by Ofgem and employ around 40,000 people in Great Britain.