Minister explains power cut that blacked out Highlands

BY MICHAEL RUSSELL
michael.russell@whfp.co.uk

It was left to Finance Secretary John Swinney to explain why a powercut on Wednesday of last week plunged the whole of the Highlands and Islands into darkness.

On Tuesday of this week Mr Swinney told the Scottish Parliament that a “faulty electronic relay” at the Knocknagael substation near Inverness was responsible for the outage. The power went out at 8.36pm last Wednesday, and most of the 200,000-plus properties affected were back on supply by 11.30pm that evening.

Mr Swinney said: “Circuit breakers then identified a potential fault on the main network and opened to protect the systems that supplied the north and the west of the country from more protracted and significant damage. Since then Scottish and Southern Energy Power Distribution have reviewed the events and modified systems and it is confident that that will prevent a recurrence of the same problem affecting its wider network.”

However, on Wednesday of this week, SSE would only say that a “faulty piece of equipment” at Knocknagael was to blame.

It was alleged by the former chairman of Scottish Power, Sir Donald Miller, that the grid in the Highlands and Islands was vul­nerable to disruption because of the way in which wind farms are being brought on-stream before additional grid capacity is installed. The SSE spokeswoman refused to comment on this allegation.

The company are in the process of upgrading both the Knocknagael substation and one at Blackhillock, around 60 miles east, to accom­modate renewable energy sources. It was initially thought that the fault happened on this stretch of line.

SSE did confirm that an unrelated fault, affecting Raasay and central Skye, began at 1.18am last Thursday and was not corrected until 1pm that day.

“This was a particularly complex fault involving network recon­figuration and temporary cable installations,” the spokeswoman said.

The spokeswoman added that SSE was working to locate and repair a cable fault on Skye, and that there were initially 1,260 customers in Raasay and central Skye affected by the local fault.