Behind the scenes with our Distribution Control Centre teams

As the network operator for northern Scotland, the distribution control centre of our networks business SSEN is playing a critical role in keeping the power flowing in these challenging times.

Martin Taylor is one of the centre’s shift leaders and, classed as a key worker, he’s part of the team whose job it is to keep a keen eye on the day-to-day operation of the high voltage network.

In this, the first of our two-part look behind the scenes at the distribution control centre, Martin talks us through what a normal day is like.

He said: “As you’d probably expect, there are a lot of big screens with maps, diagrams and sounding alarms here in the control centre, and every one of these allows us to keep an eye on the electricity as it flows across the overhead lines and underground cables to the substations that power our homes and businesses.

“Our teams are here 24/7, and as well as monitoring the day-to-day flow of electricity we also play an important role on the rare occasions there is a power cut. Modern technology allows us to quickly and safely re-route the majority of the customers’ supplies to different parts of the network, helping to get their electricity back on as quickly as possible. Using network diagrams, maps and alarms, we can also operate a number of devices here in the control centre which turn the power on and off, helping us to isolate the section of the network where the fault is located.”

Working with other colleagues who are liaising with customers during a power cut is also an important part of work in the control centre, explains Martin.

He said: “We’re in constant contact with our colleagues in the customer contact centre, not only to help them co-ordinate the work of the engineers who are getting restoring supplies, but also to provide updates as to when our customers can expect to see their power back on.”

The coronavirus guidelines have meant several changes made to the way teams are working.

Martin said: “The most radical change has seen us relocate some staff to our back-up distribution control centre, which is off-site and away from our normal location, and a third our staff are now working there until government guidelines advise otherwise.

“Also, to limit the number of key staff coming into contact with one another, everyone who is able to do their work from home is now doing just that.

“While I’m still based in our usual office, the way we work is also very different to ensure that we are keeping safe and maintaining social distancing. We’ve re-organised the workspace so there’s now always at least one empty desk between each member of the team, everything we touch is regularly wiped down, and it goes without saying that we’re washing our hands more regularly than ever.”

Martin praised the strong team spirit, which has built up over the years working shift patterns, as a great asset.

He said: “Even though a lot of us won’t see each other for a while, we still all keep in touch through the team WhatsApp and we get regular updates with our Skype meetings. It’s undoubtedly a worrying time, but everyone is doing their bit to stay safe and, as a key worker, I’m proud to be part of a team that is helping to keep the power flowing 24/7.”