ENERGY SUPPLY SECURITY

A letter to EDF regarding the breach of security and the subsequent 3 day power blackout.

Letter 01

22/10/09

Re: Major Power Cut - Dartford Area - 20th July 2009

Dear Mr Lane,

I am writing, with some observations, in further to the major power cut in Dartford on 20th July 2009.

As we all know, in today’s modern society we are completely electricity dependent and maintaining our electricity supply is paramount to the orderly running of everything we do. Our electricity supply is our life support system and we simply cannot function without it. We should therefore consider, as I’m sure you will agree, the protection, maintenance, and backup of the system, as absolutely vital. Things of great value in our society are normally very well protected. Yet despite the potential problems and losses, our electricity supply, it seems, is not. Such a failure, as well as causing considerable grief and hardship for so many people, costs us all many millions of pounds. It is also true to say that such a failure could have been a whole different story if it had been in the middle of the winter.

Due to the ease with which this crime was carried out, meeting no apparent resistance, it appears that both the physical and electronic security on the site was insufficient. It is, therefore, perhaps crucial, as I’m sure you agree, that we learn the lesson from this event. As we know, this is not the first power cut to be caused by breach of security of a sub-station or similar, sometimes even by children. If children can cause this kind of problem, relatively unimpeded, it is not hard to imagine how easy it would be for someone a little more capable and determined, and nowadays, it is true to say that any number of people, for different reasons, may feel that they can target such facilities and achieve this kind of disruption, intentionally or otherwise. It is now therefore, perhaps more than ever, vitally important that security on all such sites be reviewed and upgraded to the kind of level that you would expect with anything else protecting potential losses of many millions of pounds, to say nothing of the grief, inconvenience, and potential loss of life.

I hope you have reached similar conclusions, but inline with other facilities protecting such potential losses, it would be reassuring to see security on all such sites greatly increased. That is to say that all such sites should be physically protected to a much greater degree. All such sites should be properly alarmed, from the perimeter in, inviting an immediate response by police. All such sites should be properly monitored by CCTV, again inviting an immediate response by police. It would also be good if there were more effective and immediate contingency plans in the form of alternative circuits available, helping to cover any eventuality for any area, although we appreciate this may be a big ask. However, as we know, emergency backup is always a vital thing for essential services, and there is little more essential nowadays than our electricity supply, as I’m sure you would agree.

It is a shame that we have such people in the world, but as we do, we hope that you can see your way to instituting the kind of measures that will completely eradicate the chance of this kind of thing happening again, whether by accident, or by design. Reassuring the public that we really do have a failsafe electricity supply and recognising its vital importance by giving it the priority and resources it deserves.

Yours faithfully,
Mr D.J. Tarrant


A reply from EDF

Letter 01 Reply

25 Novemeber 2009

Dear Mr Tarrant

Thank you for your recent contact.

First, may I once again say how sorry I am that you were without power for so long during the incident on 20 July and for the problems I know it caused.

Security of our assets is clearly important to us. EDF Energy's network consists of over 87,000 miles of cables, the majority of which is, by necessity, in areas accessible to the public. It is therefore not possible to provide continuous surveillance and guaranteed security at all locations.

The bridge in question was originally built and owned by the CEGB, and adopted by EDF Energy. The security and network resilience were presumably considered satisfactory at the time of design and construction, and since then EDF Energy Networks has increased the locking from single point to three point, and has included regular inspections as part of our inspection and maintenance regime.

Nevertheless, EDF Energy's Company Security Manager has visited the site, and is liaising with the Metropolitan Police Security Advisor who has responsibility for the Energy Sector, and also our Government Energy Sector Advisor. This is part of our continuing review of security. Future security considerations at the Dartford site will be taken into account, appropriate to the financial and operational constraints we work under.

Following an incident of this magnitude it is inevitable there will be lessons to be learned. We are already focusing on our communications during this event and looking into ways to improve in the future.

I hope the information provided is useful but should you require anything further please let me know.

Yours sincerely

Mary Preece
Customer Relations Manager