Pulling together to keep the power flowing

Braemar Mountain Rescue assisting SSEN teams to access damaged power lines in Ballater

Blog by Mark Rough, Director of Operations, SHEPD

Since Thursday last week, the north of Scotland has been battered by high winds, freezing temperatures and significant snowfall. It’s in times like these that our well-established resilience plans are called into action, and over the last few days collaboration has been critical to keep the power flowing to the communities we serve.

When snow falls and builds up on overhead power lines, it can freeze and cause the lines to break or come down, known as ‘line icing’. This week has seen the UK’s lowest temperature in 26 years recorded last night, at -22.9C in Braemar, and our teams have been working hard to restore weather-related damage across our network in the north of Scotland.

Our network held up well to persistent heavy snowfall from Thursday, with our engineers working in tough conditions to restore power quickly to over 7,500 properties. Over 5,000 of these were reconnected by early Friday morning, with continued conditions over the weekend impacting areas in Perthshire, Aberdeenshire and the Central Highlands.

Drifting snow and freezing temperatures made travel to some of the more remote locations extremely challenging, and so assistance from the roads departments at Highland Council and Aberdeenshire Council proved invaluable, as their work allowed our engineers to make their way safely to repair the damaged equipment.

Last Friday, teams from Highland Council’s Roads Department helped to clear the A835 which was blocked by thick snow, allowing us to make our way to Elphin, Ledmore, Drumrunie and surrounding areas, where heavy snow had caused the overhead lines to come down.

Around Ballater, in the Cairngorms National Park, the Braemar Mountain Rescue team has been working relentlessly alongside our engineers since Monday, helping us access parts of the overhead network which have been damaged by the sheer volume of snow that has accumulated on power lines. Using their specialist off-road machinery, they were able to provide vital access for our engineers and their equipment to carry out repairs.

We also repaired damaged overhead lines in Strathdon, Aberdeenshire, where there had been multiple instances of heavy snow and fallen trees damaging our network. I visited the area on Saturday and it was clear that accessing the damaged overhead lines could have been a lot more difficult had it not been for the work of Aberdeenshire Council’s roads teams and help from customers in the local community, including local farmers bringing huge snowploughs to clear side roads and gain access to fields.

We deployed our mobile generation fleet to the area for contingency purposes and were in regular communication with the local resilience group, which is made up of members of the emergency services and community organisations. To ensure that our customers were still able to get some warm food and a hot drink, a welfare van was set up, with our teams calling each of the 100 customers affected to ensure that they were safe and well informed.

I’d like to thank everyone involved for their help and support, and our customers for their understanding as our teams battled difficult conditions to keep the power flowing across the north of Scotland.

These past few days have been a great example of everyone pulling together, with the focus being on working safely to deliver the best service possible for the local communities we serve. With more unsettled conditions forecast this coming weekend, our teams are prepared and ready to face whatever challenges the weather may bring.

About the author

Mark Rough, Director of Operations, SHEPD

Mark Rough Director of Operations, SHEPD

Mark is Director of Operations for Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks' distribution area in the north of Scotland (SHEPD)

Read more articles by Mark Rough