TORY Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom has said that a special committee will look at what happened last Friday, when a huge power cut affected millions of people, with train passengers stranded, traffic lights failing to work, passengers at King’s Cross forced to use the lights on their phones to try and find their way out of the station, and when hundreds of thousands of homes were plunged into darkness, along with a number of hospitals.
Britain was revealed to have been reduced to the level of a banana republic, unable to guarantee the power needs of the UK population. Presumably, despite all temptations to do so, the investigation will resist blaming Vladimir Putin for this latest disaster, which was entirely made in the UK.
The truth is that the Tories are to blame for the fact that the power system in the UK is now being stretched beyond breaking point.
This situation was designed when the Thatcher government, in 1984, decided to close down the mining industry in order to destroy the power of the NUM, which had proven to be a thorn in the side of a number of Tory governments. This was a political decision that has had the gravest of economic consequences.
The German power system is based on its coal mining industry and functions excellently, while the UK system has proven that it cannot withstand a failure of one of its wind farms and a power station.
The investigation will consider the obvious – that the procedures followed by National Grid are not fit for purpose as far as the needs of the people are concerned.
Leadsom said the power outages ‘caused enormous disruption’, adding: ‘National Grid must urgently review and report to Ofgem.’
The power collapse happened after problems at two power stations – the gas-fired station at Little Barford in Bedfordshire at 16:58 BST and then at Hornsea offshore wind farm in the North Sea two minutes later.
National Grid’s director of operations Duncan Burt said he did not believe that a cyber-attack or unpredictable wind power generation was to blame but had to acknowledge the ‘immense disruption’ the blackout had caused.
He said the near-simultaneous loss of two generators was more than the grid was routinely prepared for, prompting automatic safety systems to shut off power to a large number of places. He went so far as to admire the efficiency of the cut-off by its administrators.
‘We think the safety protection systems across the industry, on generators and on the network, worked well to secure and keep the grid safe, to make sure that we preserved power to the vast proportion of the country,’ he said.
Shadow business and energy secretary Rebecca Long Bailey said the impact of the power cut was ‘unacceptable’ at a time when National Grid reported £1.8bn in profits and increased dividends to shareholders.
In fact, police were called to help travellers during the huge disruption on the railways on Friday, which continued into Saturday for some routes, with services to and from King’s Cross station in London particularly badly hit.
Passenger Dayna McAlpine told BBC Radio 5 Live her train took nearly 13 hours to reach London King’s Cross from Edinburgh – a journey which would normally take less than five hours. ‘By hour-seven things were starting to get pretty tense,’ she said. ‘People were threatening to self-evacuate off the train … Food ran out about five hours ago.’
At the worst point of the power cut, about 500,000 people were affected in Western Power Distribution’s area – including 44,500 customers in Wales – while 110,000 Northern Powergrid customers also lost power.
In London and south-east England, 300,000 people were affected, UK Power Networks said, and another 26,000 customers were without power in north-west England. Northern Powergrid said the problems had affected Newcastle airport and the city’s metro system.
At Ipswich Hospital, a back-up generator which was supposed to supply power to outpatient areas did not work after the power cut, causing problems for 15 minutes before power was restored. This was the content of the adminstrators system that they thought went ‘pretty well’!
Labour must now pledge that when it becomes the government it will reopen the mining industry and create a power generation and delivery system to satisfy the needs of the millions of workers that depend on it.
Shadow business and energy secretary Rebecca Long Bailey admitted the power cut was ‘unacceptable’. Now Labour must pledge to reopen the mining industry and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs as well as energy security.