Our story told in 741,000 living rooms

People have asked me how I feel about the way SSE was portrayed in the Power to the People documentary on BBC FOUR, and whether I have any misgivings about our decision to take part. I won't pretend that it was all easy viewing, but overall I would say it showed that we are an open, progressive company doing our very best in often difficult circumstances to serve the customer and play our part in providing the energy people need.

By the time the closing credits rolled on Tuesday night's final episode, more than 741,000 people had tuned in over the past three weeks to see what we do, and how we do it. While Power to the People was never likely to top the TV ratings, we have reached a large audience we couldn't have hoped to reach any other way and hopefully, having seen some of our colleagues who work so hard to provide the energy people need, they will now see us as quite a bit different from other energy companies. With the programme still available on iPlayer, that audience is increasing all the time: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/group/b06q4yqv

We agreed that the BBC would have full editorial control and this was seen by some as a bold decision. However, we wanted to be sure that the end product was a credible, ‘warts and all’ picture of SSE. The films also held up a mirror to our company and we have learned a few things about ourselves as a result that we will address to better serve the customer, or do other work in better ways and I see this as a positive outcome. 

The films showcased some of our success stories – the Beauly-Denny line replacement project, Greater Gabbard offshore wind farm and just a few of the great things we do as a company. They also gave a very human perspective on the big issues facing our industry. I thought our Fisheries Biologist Alastair Stephen, filmed in his waders waist-deep in the River Conon downstream of Torr Achilty dam, summed up very neatly the decarbonisation vs security of supply debate with his simple comment: "If we don't generate enough, the lights will go out." But the films also shone a light on some difficult issues that reflect the challenges we face: the future of Ferrybridge power station in West Yorkshire, which featured so heavily in the first episode, and the place coal has in the energy mix more generally, being obvious examples.

The sweeping scale of some of our major projects made for great TV, but for me the real stars were the SSE team of employees. These are people who do amazing things every day – often in very difficult conditions and circumstances – to provide an essential service that helps keeps the lights on and much, much more. That’s an SSE story that people rarely hear and I’m glad the BBC gave us the opportunity to tell it.

About the author

Alistair Phillips-Davies Chief Executive

Alistair became Chief Executive of SSE on 1 July 2013. He has a degree in Natural Sciences and is a qualified Chartered Accountant. He has worked in the energy industry since 1997, when he joined Southern Electric. He was appointed to the Board of SSE as Energy Supply Director in 2002 and was appointed Deputy Chief Executive in 2012. As Chief Executive, he leads the Executive Committee and the rest of the SSE team in the day-to-day running and operations of SSE and is responsible for implementing the strategy and policy set by the Board.

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