Energy Networks (Discussions with United Kingdom Government)

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 7 February 2024.

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Photo of Foysol Choudhury Foysol Choudhury Labour

2. To ask the Scottish Government what recent discussions it has had with the United Kingdom Government regarding actions that can be taken to preserve energy networks following periods of bad weather. (S6O-03055)

Photo of Gillian Martin Gillian Martin Scottish National Party

As the member rightly outlines, policy and regulation of energy networks in the UK, including their operation, maintenance and resilience, are reserved to the UK Government.

Scottish Government officials maintain regular contact with UK Government counterparts on energy network resilience topics. Last week, Scottish Government resilience division officials attended a UK Department for Energy Security and Net Zero meeting at which winter energy risk and disruption contingency planning were discussed.

We are also working with the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets, the National Grid electricity system operator and the industry on reforms to and expansion of the electricity grid, so that electricity networks are robust, effective and work for Scotland.

Photo of Foysol Choudhury Foysol Choudhury Labour

Storm Isha saw thousands across Scotland lose power, with some people not being reconnected for more than a day. That greatly impacted those with disabilities or mobility issues who require electrical equipment to live and complete tasks in their homes. What discussion has the Scottish Government had with the energy networks in Scotland regarding additional help and reimbursement for those who have additional needs, when they are left without power due to energy disruption and blackouts?

Photo of Gillian Martin Gillian Martin Scottish National Party

Foysol Choudhury outlined a situation that I brought up as a back bencher following the aftermath of storm Arwen, when many thousands of people in my constituency had no power for seven days. I am always keen to pick up that issue with the operators. We had a constructive meeting with SSE plc and Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks—I think that that was last week—on their rolling maintenance programmes for lines, and for preventing damage to those lines in storms, which includes tree cutting, as well as on their work to update their vulnerable customer registers so that they know when to step in and help people who have vulnerabilities such as those that the member outlined.

Great work is being done by local authorities, police services, fire services, healthcare services, and response and resilience services working with electricity suppliers to learn lessons from storm Arwen and subsequent storms. Furthermore, last week, the Cabinet Secretary for Wellbeing, Fair Work and Energy and I had a discussion with the electricity system operator on reforms and expansion of the network.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I call Sarah Boyack to ask a very brief supplementary.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

The minister did not mention our railway network. Given its increasing electrification, what work is being done to have a cross-UK discussion to ensure that the electricity supply to our railway network is reliable and resilient?

Photo of Gillian Martin Gillian Martin Scottish National Party

I am happy to refer that question to Fiona Hyslop, who has responsibility for transport. However, Sarah Boyack makes a good point. Increasingly, as we move towards further electrification of our network, we need to take resilience planning into account.