“Keeping the lights on” while helping to remove carbon from electricity generation

I hope you had a chance to watch Power to the People on BBC FOUR (17 Nov) – the first of three documentaries the BBC has produced about the energy industry, using footage of SSE’s assets and employees. 

The show, titled Keeping the lights on, featured two very different, but equally awe-inspiring forms of electricity generation – Greater Gabbard offshore wind farm and Ferrybridge ‘C’ coal fired power station.

Earlier in the year (March 2015) we made an incredibly difficult decision when we announced the closure of Ferrybridge.  You’ll have seen the reason why it was so difficult: our employees.  The Ferrybridge team are dedicated, professional, highly skilled and incredibly proud of the work they do.  They should be.  Ferrybridge has reliably supplied electricity to the UK for well in excess of four decades, and the station has been brilliantly run and maintained during that time.  

The decision to close Ferrybridge sadly reflects the reality of the costs associated with older stations, and a need to move to cleaner forms of generation. As coal stations across the country start to close down, gas-fired power stations increasingly play an important role in keeping the lights on. Last month we announced the re-opening of our 735MW gas-fired power station at Keadby in North Lincolnshire. The site now employs around 53 people and SSE has transferred 24 employees  across from Ferrybridge. 

Another part of the shift towards cleaner forms of energy has involved the construction of more forms of renewable energy.

Since 2007 SSE has invested nearly £4bn in renewable generation and is the leading operator of renewable assets in the Great Britain and Ireland. Our renewable fleet provides around 30% of SSE’s generation output; and will help us meet our commitment to reduce the carbon intensity of our overall electricity generation by 50% (compared to 2006) by 2020. 

There will no doubt be more renewables projects featuring in future episodes of the documentary but tonight’s views of Greater Gabbard reminded me just what a feat of engineering it is; and how skilled (and brave) the team who maintain and operate it are. The North Sea can be an unforgiving place and I’ve seen first hand the type of conditions my colleagues work in to keep Greater Gabbard producing renewable electricity for the country. 

Having constantly available electricity is something we all take for granted most of the time, myself included.  The documentary illustrated just what goes into generating the power that keeps the lights on, and the economy running.  I’d like to pay tribute to all of our colleagues who featured in the documentary; and all those who work tirelessly day in day out to keep our assets producing electricity. They do an amazing job and we should all be thankful for it.

I’m looking forward to watching the remaining two episodes on 24 November and 1 December at 9pm on BBC FOUR. 



About the author

Martin Pibworth Wholesale Director

Martin joined SSE in 1998 as an energy trader and undertook a series of commercial roles in the Company, becoming Managing Director, Energy Portfolio Management, and a member of SSE's then Management Board, in 2012. In 2014, he was appointed Managing Director, Wholesale, and a member of SSE's Group Executive Committee, taking on responsibility for SSE's electricity generation portfolio and associated capital investment programme. During this time, Martin has overseen the development of SSE's diverse and flexible generation portfolio including its growing renewable fleet. In 2017, he was appointed to the Board as Wholesale Director, where he also has responsibility for the supply of energy and related services to industrial and commercial customers and SSE's businesses in Ireland. Martin brings significant knowledge of energy markets and experience of commercial, technical and operational matters to the Board, and his innovative approach to strategy, in seeking opportunities to create future value, is also important to his role. Prior to 1998 Martin worked for Eastern Power and Energy Trading, and Total Gas Marketing.

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