Memorandum from CE Electric UK
CE Electric UK is one of the largest electricity
distribution businesses in the United Kingdom. Operating through
its subsidiaries Northern Electric Distribution Ltd and Yorkshire
Electricity Distribution plc, it serves 3.6 million customers
throughout the North East, Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire.
We are grateful for the opportunity to comment
on the Government's proposals. CE Electric UK and its predecessor
companies have for many years played an active part in emergency
planning and in co-ordinated response to emergencies at both the
local and national level. Our experience in dealing with the aftermath
of bad weather and other emergencies, from heavy snowfall to flooding,
has given us a wide range of knowledge that is relevant to the
current consultation. We have made our views known at the regional
workshops run by the Cabinet Office and welcome this opportunity
to comment direct.
We do not have comments on all the questions
raised in the consultation. Indeed, in the absence of sight of
the proposed secondary legislation it is difficult to make informed
comment on what is a very broad framework with a great deal of
flexibility at the local level. (Indeed, this is one of our concerns.)
We have endeavoured to set our response in the context of the
specific questions raised.
Q1. We note that the Bill extends the definition
of emergency to include major disruptions of energy. The energy
industries have for many years maintained their own contingency
planning for emergencies, working with the DTI and before that
the Department of Energy. In the case of electricity companies,
this is governed by the relevant legislation and regulatory licences.
There is a distinction to be drawn between emergencies where loss
of electricity supply is a relevant part but not the primary problem
and those that are primarily one of loss of supply.
An example of the former would be a major flood
or terrorist attack, where the safeguarding and restoration of
electricity supply is an important part of the return to normality,
but where it inevitably has to take second place, for example,
to the safeguarding of human life or a police investigation. In
such circumstances, the framework established by the draft Bill
is clearly the most sensible way to establish priorities and deliver
actions in a coordinated manner.
On the other hand, an emergency that is purely
or largely one simply of loss of electricity supply (such as the
recent power outages in the North Eastern United States and London)
may well need handling in a different way. Restoring power in
such circumstances or after a hurricane needs careful work and
a great deal of technical skill. In order to return the power
supply to normal to as many customers as possible as quickly as
possible (and thereby minimise in aggregate the threat to human
life and welfare), it may be necessary to carry out power restoration
in an order that does not restore the neediest first. To attempt
to operate in any other way could jeopardise the orderly restoration
of power by creating further blackouts.
In such circumstances, the role of the emergency
services, the police and local authorities should therefore be
one of dealing with the consequences of the outage rather than
in directing the power restoration itself. This is recognised
in current arrangements, but there is a danger under the proposed
arrangements that the Bill may place responsibility inappropriately
for dealing with the restoration of power itself. This needs further
Q2. We are content in general with the obligations
imposed on Category 1 and 2 responders. However, one aspect not
covered as yet by the draft Bill is the need to protect confidential
information. Information may need to be provided that is confidential,
either for reasons of commercial confidentiality or because it
has security implications. The Bill itself (rather than regulations
made under the Bill) needs to provide for the designation of certain
information as confidential and for a duty on those in receipt
of that information to keep it confidential unless otherwise agreed
by the provider.
Q3. We support the inclusion of utility
companies in Category 2, subject to the points made in answer
to Question 1 above.
Q4. It is difficult to answer this question
in the absence of sight of the detail of the regulations. Our
main concern in this area is that, as an electricity distribution
business whose activities cover a considerable number of local
authority areas, we will be required to provide information to
each of these areas (and probably to each Category 1 agency) to
enable them to develop their plans. This is likely to require
a substantial resource. Whilst recognising the need to provide
this information, the process needs to be as streamlined as possible
and a consistent approach needs to be adopted. This applies as
much to the format of locally specific information (such as the
location of substations) as to more generic information (such
as company emergency planning arrangements). We therefore see
a role for the Regional Resilience Forums to coordinate the nature
and format of information required at the local level within their
Q5. See the answer to Question 4 above.
Q6. From the answer to Question 4 above,
it is clear that, for utility companies whose area of operations
encompasses a number of local authority areas, the cost identified
in the RIA has been grossly underestimated. The amount of effort
required will depend on the degree of preparation already carried
out by the local authority or other agency concerned (and this
varies markedly from one to another). But in broad terms, the
cost identified per company needs to be multiplied by the number
of Category 1 responders the company needs to provide information
to the liaise with.
Q7-Q9. No comments.
Q10. The points made above in relation to
an electricity-specific emergency are also relevant here. It is
quite possible for a power outage to affect a larger geographical
area that that covered by a single local authority (eg the recent
power outage in the US or the storm in October 2002). Regional
planning and a regional response, coordinated across a number
of different local authority areas could well be needed. But,
as at the local level, it is important to separate responsibility
for returning supply to normal (which must rest with the electricity
distribution and transmission companies) from that of dealing
with the consequences of the outage. It goes without saying that
despite the separation of responsibilities close co-operation
and working would be needed.
Q11. We agree that the principle of special
legislative measures based on the regions makes good sense, as
it allows the targeting of resources from central government towards
the areas directly affected.
Q12. Yes. We agree that the framework needs
Q13. Subject to the points made above, we
agree with the widening of the circumstances in which special
legislative measures may be taken.
Q14. We support the use of special legislative
measures on a sub-UK basis.
Q15-Q23. No comments.