Examination of Witnesses (Questions 880
MONDAY 4 FEBRUARY 2008
Q880 Mr Drew:
And Central Networks?
Mr Raymant: From our perspective,
the key interim conclusion relates to making information available
about critical sites. I mentioned earlier, we are working on those
81 critical sites across our patch. In terms of the Pitt Review
itself, we are very supportive of the conclusions and recommendations
that are coming out of that. I think probably two threads from
me. One is the emergency preparedness: in the event of an incident,
how we respond to that as a Category 2 responder. I actually feel
that in terms of the Gloucester floods we responded very well.
We participated in all of the Gold Command meetings at senior
level and that worked very well for us. I think the point I would
draw out from this is that as an organisation we manage probably
one to two emergencies a year, on a fairly significant scale,
associated with bad storms and, therefore, we are in quite a high
state of preparedness anyway for managing emergencies, and that
was actually borne out in the management of the Gloucester incident.
The thing that was different about Gloucester was that the nature
of the event was very different, it was flooding, and also it
was the first time we had engaged actively with Gold Commandit
was the first time we had to do thatand we learnt a lot
from that and we have built that into our own emergency plans
and updated those and, subsequently, tested them again since that
Q881 Mr Drew:
Have either of you sought to look to move any of the critical
infrastructure or have plans to so do following your re-evaluation
of the flood risk? You are nodding.
Mr Winser: We certainly have done
work on that, and that will be further informed by the work with
the industry and the ENA because it does come back to making sure
that it is an holistic solution. In fact, relocating our substations,
which are pretty big pieces of equipment, overall is a very expensive
option. It is much more likely we will see some expenditure of
just increasing the resilience of the current footprint rather
than actually lifting it up or moving it to another site, although
as we get into the asset replacement phase we will keep that absolutely
under review because we will over the next decade, 15 years be
looking at a lot of this equipment again.
Mr Raymant: Our position is very
similar. When we are looking at replacing sites we will clearly
look at the location and we will also look at the permanent protection
that is required given the flooding risk. You cannot get away
from the fact we have to locate these sites near the point of
load; so if we have developments going on in those areas, then
naturally we have to follow. That is one point I would make. The
other piece of information I would share with you is we did actually
upgrade a switch yard in the locality called Port Ham two years
agothat has now been operational for a yearand we
did purposely build that on elevated stilts, knowing the flood
risk, and we were able to build that into the design of the substation,
but, as Nick said, it is very difficult to do that in retrospect.
The only option really is to build more permanent protection around
Mr Murray: May I add one supplementary
point on this which is really driving why it is more expensive
to move something than to protect it. Of course, one has to remember
it is not just a question of moving a substation: one would then
have to move all the overhead lines that come in and out of the
substation, with all the associated planning issues that would
go with that as well; so although we cannot pre-empt the outcome
of the ENA work, our expectation is that we would invest in further
protecting sites rather than moving them.
Q882 Mr Drew:
One final point on that then. Is there a time frame for this?
Here we are talking about humanity being threatened by 2050. If
you were to say we will be doing this over the next 40 odd years,
then some of us might say that is not really within the parameters
of the state of emergency we now face. Can you give us a feel
for how quickly you could re-evaluate the site that you have got
at the moment?
Mr Winser: Our thoughts are five
to seven years. As we get through the detailed understanding of
what, overall, is the best economic solution, we will need to
engage with Ofgem about how that is to be funded; but ultimately
that is why we have invested in the portable barrier, because
we know that getting through that very sensible analysis and working
with the regulatory authorities will take some time and so the
portable barrier is, if you like, our opportunity to bring some
resilience quickly to bear. Five to seven years is probably what
we are guessing at the moment.
Q883 Mr Drew:
Finally, would you welcome any clarification in law about your
responsibilities? Clearly we have got the Civil Contingencies
Act which we are looking at with a range of interested parties,
but do you feel that you know that the law is clear enough in
your area or would you welcome some further clarification in how
that particular Act and all the legislation operates regarding
what expectation there is on yourselves?
Mr Raymant: I think from a distribution
perspective we are very clear what our obligations are and would
suggest the legal framework is robust enough for that. I think
what we have learnt from this incident is the need probably for
Category 2 responders to work more closely with Category 1 responders,
which the existing legislation provides for, so clarity in that
respect is probably the most valuable thing.
Mr Winser: And, I think, the introduction
of PPS25, which gives a greater degree of clarity about the sort
of sites you need to provide greater resilience to flooding is
also helpful, so we are in the same place.
Chairman: Gentlemen, thank you very much
indeed for your oral evidence, thank you for your written submissions
and we will reflect very carefully on what you have had to say.
Thank you very much.