Power provider unveils plans to stop cuts to valley service

Residents of the Tweed Valley left in the dark by interruptions to their power supply could benefit from plans to install underground lines between Peebles and Innerleithen.

By Kevin Janiak
Wednesday, 5th February 2020, 5:09 pm
SP Energy Network is looking to upgrade Innerleithen’s electricty supply.
SP Energy Network is looking to upgrade Innerleithen’s electricty supply.

However, that won’t happen until at least 2023.

Euan Norris and Sean Gavaghan of SP Energy Networks – the group tasked with delivery of power to homes and businesses – briefed members of Innerleithen Community Council on Monday evening, following reports of several short breaks in supply to people living in the town and the surrounding area.

Mr Norris, stakeholder and community engagement manager for Edinburgh and the Borders, explained the unique problems they face here.

He said the town is currently serviced by a 22kv network – one that is obsolete, almost impossible to get spares for, and incompatable with the rest of the country – and it needs to be modernised to a more common 6.6kv network.

He said: “The enduring solution, while we are still upgrading overhead lines, is to establish a new primary substation in Innerleithen which will be fed by an underground system.

“But we still need to look at overhead lines as not everybody stays in the town of Innerleithen itself.

“The original proposal is for a £21m 16km underground system, which is a considerable undertaking, not least in gaining assent from landowners.

“This will not take place until our next five-year price control period, which begins in 2023.”

Mr Gavaghan, head of delivery for SP Energy Networks, said the firm is doing its best to minimise breaks to the town’s power supply.

He said: “There are several reasons for these to be happening.

“It can be birds flying into the cables. The guys on the ground say the damage a swan can make is extensive.

“It has also been trees either coming down all together or branches catching on the line.”

Several improvements are being put in place, said the pair, including switching the service to the town from Yair Bridge to the Gytes in Peebles, which boasts a more resilient service, they say, with a significantly lower fault and transient rate.

Bird diverters – a bit like CD discs – are being installed on the lines to fend off our feathered friends, as well as additional air breakers, which providesbetter isolation of the fault, getting customers back on track quicker.

The need to cut back trees and branches along the line is also being monitored.

However, the short outages, some of which last less than a minute, can cause problems in the home.

One member of the public, Allan Johnston, said he had gone through five routers due to a surge problem when electricity goes back online after a short cut.

However, he added, he has had no problems since buying a surge protector.

Mr Gavaghan said the company could arrange to install monitoring equipment in homes to see what was causing it, if it persisted.

Mr Norris added: “The multiple interruptions you have been experiencing are not the service we want to provide for you.

“We recognise they are inconvenient, and this is not where we want to be.”

He said that he hoped the measures taken to improve the service so far had been successful, and prompted elderly and infirm users to sign up to the group’s priority services register (PSR).

The users on this list are flagged up to locally-based teams so they can ensure those most in need of an electricity supply are a priority whenever there is an interruption of service.

He said: “What we really hope is that anyone requiring electricity to run emergency medical equipment such as dialysis machines, or anyone over the age of 60, joins the PSR online at spenergynetworks.co.uk, in order that if there is a drop in service, we know where you are and we can come and help you.”

To find out more about joining the SPE Energy Networks PSR, call the company on 03301 010167.