Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary memorandum submitted by National Grid (FL 80a)

  Many thanks to you for your letter of 18th February. My colleague Nick Winser and I welcomed the opportunity to update the Committee on the impact of the summer 2007 floods on our operations during our evidence session.

  As you are aware National Grid owns and operates the high voltage electricity transmission system in England and Wales and operates the system in Scotland. In addition, we manage the gas transmission system in the UK and distribute gas to 11 million homes and business in the heart of England.

  Following the summer floods, we have invested £1million in mobile flood barriers to be deployed to electricity substation sites at risk of flooding. In addition, we invested £300,000 for a medium term Hesco Bastion wall at Walham 400KV substation. We have undertaken a full review of all our electricity and gas sites, and are working closely with the Energy Networks Association to review substation resilience to flooding—a report on the findings of this group has been submitted to BERR this week. In addition, we continue to work closely with Sir Michael Pitt and his flood review team on resilience issues.

  One of the issues raised by the Committee during the evidence session which we would very much like to take the opportunity to address once more, is that National Grid has a 99.9999% reliability rate in its operation of the electricity transmission network. To date flooding has not posed the most serious risk to the reliability of the network; however, we work closely with the Met Office and Environment Agency to assess the impact of weather on our system and we are therefore undertaking R&D to understand future requirements.

  Addressing the impact of flood waters on our gas network has also been a significant work stream for National Grid in the last few years. In 2006, we commissioned a review to assess our gas transmission sites analysing the assets at risk from flooding. This study examined our four broad asset groups on the gas network—Pressure Reduction Stations, Holder Stations, High pressure Pipelines and Low pressure gas networks. We also commissioned an engineering review in July 2007 to consider the risk posed by different levels of flood water.

  As I mentioned in the evidence session to the Committee, we do look at the issue of moving assets at risk of flooding, particularly those of a critical nature. In terms of electricity substations the majority of transmission network was built in the 1960s based on best information available, any new site will be constructed to latest standards and will be designed to be safe and operable to 1 in 1,000 year floods. The research we have commissioned to date shows that it is not cost effective to relocate all sub stations in high risk zones. As such we will be taking steps to enhance defences around critical substations, and following the Energy Networks Association review on substation resilience we will be taking advice on which sites may need permanent barriers. We estimate that these will cost in the region of £30-£75 million and take 5-7 years to install.

On the issue of resilience and our obligations under the Civil Contingencies Act, I would like to take the opportunity to reiterate that National Grid has a well developed emergency framework which it frequently tests. The framework has been developed in liaison with other energy sector companies and the lead government department BERR. In turn, the BERR emergency framework dovetails with COBRA. These arrangements are currently reviewed and improved through the industry planning body, the Energy Emergencies Executive Committee (E3C) which is chaired by my colleague Chris Train. E3C reports to E3 which is chaired at an executive level by BERR.

  It is with pleasure and pride that I reflect that a number of our operational engineers who worked extremely hard through the summer floods have received honours for the hard work and dedication to National Grid and the communities in which we operate. I particularly would like to note and give thanks to Andy Wilson, a National Grid First Call Operative who saved the life of a kidney patient, when their dialysis machine was affected by localised power cuts; Dan Bailey, a National Grid Transmission craftsman who set up a support rope and negotiated a flooded road to deliver insulin to a diabetic youngster trapped in a nursery; and Paul Jones our Distribution Operations engineer who was first on the scene at Ludlow, where a bridge had collapsed leaving a gas main exposed. He ensured the safety of the public and coordinated the response of the emergency services when they arrived.

  The flooding events of 2007 clearly demonstrated that our commitment to and close working with the Silver and Gold commands ensured effective response in managing events at Walham and South Yorkshire. I would also like to thank the emergency services, army and all those who provided tremendous support to National Grid during summer 2007.

  Many thanks to you for the opportunity to appear before the Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee.

Chris J Murray
Director of Asset Management
UK Transmission

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