SP Energy Networks powering the NHS through COVID-19

Wed, April 22nd, 2020

The electricity distributor is working around the clock to protect power...

SP Energy Networks has undertaken a mammoth task over the last two weeks to ensure the safety, security and resilience of its power supplies to NHS and private hospitals, care homes and other healthcare facilities across Merseyside at the frontline of the fight against COVID-19.

The electricity distributor is working around the clock to protect power supplies to critical sites such as hospitals and care homes – including new field hospitals – as well as food supply chain businesses and key national security facilities that must keep working to support and protect the public.

As part of the effort, a preventative inspection of overhead lines serving Clatterbridge Hospital identified a faulty switch and a dedicated team was quickly dispatched to replace it – with no supply interruption to the hospital or the surrounding customers. The new switch is now fully operational and securing the power supply to Clatterbridge Hospital, Clatterbridge Cancer Centre and Claire House Hospice, which all support extremely vulnerable patients and families.

The extensive proactive work underway is being complemented by a fast action response from SP Energy Networks teams and contractors to ensure critical supplies can be maintained.

In just seven days across Merseyside, this included essential repairs – completed by teams working within government guidelines – such as:

  • A cable fault on the extra high voltage network that supplies Aintree University Hospital and the Walton Centre (specialist neurology and neurosurgery facility) as well as the wider population of Fazakerley. A team of ten took just 30 hours to locate the fault, access the cable, repair the fault, reinstate the ground and return the supply, which had been diverted to a lower voltage network, to service.
  • A second fault on the network serving Aintree University Hospital, the Walton Centre and Fazakerley. This was a challenging repair – complicated by its location in the middle of a 4-lane dual carriageway and requiring extensive traffic management. Despite these complexities, a team of 15, working in conjunction with a specialist traffic management company, completed the works in just five days.
  • A cable fault in the Bootle area, where ongoing repair works were already underway. Working in conjunction with control room colleagues, a team of ten worked to reconfigure the network and worked overnight to complete the repair.

Power supplies were maintained for all customers while these essential repairs were carried out.
Andy Churchman, SP Energy Networks Merseyside District General Manager, said: “Delivering a vital and essential electricity supply that is a lifeline for the country is what we do day in and day out, but it’s never been more important than it is now. While most people will be unaware of the work we’re continuing to do to power the NHS and the country through COVID-19, you only have to think about what would happen if the power went off to appreciate why what we’re doing provides such an essential service.

“I’m very proud to see our teams respond in a positive and proactive way to ensure our network is operating as it should be. Providing such a rapid response – including working through the night where necessary – in the event of power supply interruptions is no mean feat and is testament to our commitment to keeping any impact on our customers to an absolute minimum.

“These cables power tens of thousands of homes and businesses and we often have to dig out around 30-40 tonnes of material before we can even get to the cable to identify and start the repair work. Our teams are an absolute credit to us and are really pulling out all the stops to maintain a robust and reliable electricity network for our NHS heroes, people and communities across Merseyside.

“We will continue to do all we can to keep them powering through.”

The work in Merseyside is part of a package of special measures and new ways of working introduced across the country by SP Energy Networks to ensure frontline services, businesses and domestic customers can all be confident in relying on our energy networks to get us through the current crisis.

Efforts include:

  • an enhanced inspection and monitoring regime ¬– focused around the priority sites
  • continued critical maintenance and repair work that secures the resilience of the electricity network and keeps the power flowing
  • prioritisation of works to provide additional capacity and more electricity where it is needed
  • constant monitoring of energy usage to ensure supply continues to meet the changing demands of how we’re now working and living
  • using new technologies to monitor network performance.

Additional monitoring has also been introduced to ensure any potential issues are identified and addressed as quickly as possible, with some sites which would previously been checked every few months or annually now being inspected on a weekly basis.

Scott Mathieson, Network Planning and Regulation Director for SP Energy Networks, said: “While we know our hospitals and healthcare facilities already benefit from good power supplies – supported by robust contingency plans – it’s never been more essential to ensure critical electricity supplies are maintained and enhanced at these key sites.

“Across the country the UK, Welsh and Scottish governments have been bolstering the capacity of our NHS by setting up specialist field hospitals alongside dedicated testing and treatment sites. We’ve been actively playing a crucial role in this process – working with our partners in government to make sure these facilities have the connections, capacity and resilience they need to adequately fight the spread of the virus.

“That includes support for the herculean efforts to transform venues across the country into new hospitals such as the development of six field hospitals within leisure and education premises in North Wales. Responsive, reliable and resilient power supplies will be vital to getting these facilities up and running and that’s exactly what we’re working to deliver.

“We are proud to be part of the efforts to power our NHS through the COVID-19 pandemic and my thanks go to the many colleagues working across the business to keep our NHS working and saving lives.

“While this involves an incredible team effort, it is just one aspect of the critical works we are undertaking in these unprecedented times to ensure the power stays on and people can continue to live well, work and stay connected to the family and friends they are unable to visit.

“I can assure all our customers we are only doing essential works at this time, and I would ask people to keep this in mind if they see our colleagues working in their local community – we are all in this together.”

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