National Grid boss says UK 'is not Argentina' after power cut

Monday 12th August 2019 19:30 BST

John Pettigrew said the failure was due to a "rare and exceptional combination of circumstances" and batted off comparisons with countries such as Argentina - insisting that the UK's energy network is one of the most reliable in the world.

He said the system "did the job it was designed to do" by protecting the majority of users from losing power, and called for an equal degree of focus on how rail companies handled the outage.

The power cut on Friday left nearly a million homes without electricity, as well as resulting in severe disruption to commuter train services and prompting an inquiry by the government and regulator Ofgem.

It came after two power generators - one wind farm and one gas-fired power station - providing 5% of the UK's power needs failed simultaneously.

Mr Pettigrew defended the grid's response in a post on social media site LinkedIn entitled "there is never a good time for a power cut".

He said: "Contrary to some erroneous media reports, I am not on holiday - indeed, I've been at my desk all weekend.

"As CEO of National Grid plc ultimately the buck stops with me."

Mr Pettigrew admitted that the timing of the power cut at 4.50pm on a Friday when people were trying to get home after a hard week at work was "one of the worst".

The chief executive said the company would cooperate fully with the government's inquiry.

He said questions needed to be asked including whether the failure was linked to the increased use of renewable energy on the network - though it was currently believed that it was not - as well as why, despite the "limited" timescale of the outage the national rail network was so badly hit.

The chief executive said the company would be reporting its findings to Ofgem and the government by the end of the week and that others including Network Rail and train operators also needed to be "forensic" in their investigations of what happened.

He added: "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 system did the job that it was designed to do - by protecting many more millions of customers nationwide from potential loss of power."

Mr Pettigrew said the grid's own customers, the distribution network operators, had restored power to all their customers within 45 minutes.

He said: "We don't underestimate the inconvenience and disruption this caused however, and one of the questions we will be addressing as an industry is whether the system as it is currently designed prioritises power supplies in the right way."

He said an incident on the same scale had not happened since 2008.

"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," he added.

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