John Pettigrew, group CEO of the UK’s grid operator, National Grid has insisted that the state has one of the world’s most reliable energy networks and that he was not on holiday during the blackout on Friday 9 August that left 900,000 people without electricity.
He said the grid operator has been doing “everything in our power” to understand the events surrounding the blackout, which affected large areas of England and Wales.
UK Energy minister Andrea Leadsom has demanded answers and is also commissioning the government’s Energy Emergencies Executive Committee to investigate.
Mr Pettigrew said the grid management system “did the job that it was designed to do,” and power was restored within 15 minutes, with distribution network operators being able to restore power to their own networks within 45 minutes.
He admitted that the timing of the power cut “when people are trying to get home to their families and friends after a hard week at work is one of the worst”.
In the past six years alone, National Grid has invested £10bn in improving the security, integrity and carbon performance of UK energy supply markets.Peter Pettigrew
He added: “Since that partial power cut, thousands of colleagues across the industry have been working hard to ensure the system is robust and to understand exactly what happened, and what we should do differently in the future.
“The whole UK energy industry needs to understand the causes of this power cut and also why it was able to create such significant disruption to services across Great Britain, particularly the transport network.
“Nevertheless we shouldn’t be too hasty to declare a complete failure of our current system. Whilst this event was due to a rare and exceptional combination of circumstances, we were able to restore power within 15 minutes.”
“The UK is not Argentina”
Mr Pettigrew noted that “Contrary to the comparisons in some parts, the UK is not Argentina and even after Friday’s events, we have statistically one of the most reliable energy networks not only in Europe but anywhere in the world.
“This is the result of the energy industry investing £100bn in distribution and transmission networks since 1990. In the past six years alone, National Grid has invested £10bn in improving the security, integrity and carbon performance of UK energy supply markets. Power cuts are actually 60% less frequent than they were when I started working at National Grid back in 1991.
“We are certain this was a result of a freak coincidence and not a cyber-attack. While we must not be complacent and must continue to be vigilant, our investments in cybersecurity defences provide a silent shield to UK power supplies.”
He said National Grid is already “well into our own international investigations” and will be issuing an urgent report to the country’s regulator, Ofgem, and government by Friday 16 August, with a full technical report due by 06 September.