“The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), along with the Energy Systems Catapult (ESC), has been highlighting for some time the lack of whole systems thinking within the power network. This incident highlights the desperate need for greater coordination across what are increasingly complex and interrelated energy, transport and communications systems.
“The impact of this lack of whole systems thinking was highlighted by the large degree of disruption faced by rail passengers from what was a comparatively minor electrical incident, stranded because signalling systems and trains were not able to restart once power supplies had been returned to normal. This lack of understanding about impacts across other sectors and on individuals also meant hospitals, residents and business were all impacted.
“The electricity system has changed a great deal since the existing governance arrangements were put in place in the 1980s and our current governance arrangements are no longer fit for purpose. We now have a highly complex system of which the National Grid is only one part, interconnected physically and through data and information flows to many other systems (such as the Network Rail system and subsystems within it). This complexity makes current silo-based thinking increasingly risky as society’s dependence on electricity continues to increase, for example through the internet and data, electric vehicles, heating and cooling, and dependency within the home, especially for the vulnerable.
“The technical governance of these complex systems requires a step change from today, it needs to be holistic, agile, flexible and embracing of the full range of system participants. Without that, we can expect to see more unexpected consequences across the whole system, as well as a failure to seize the benefits whole systems cooperation can bring, not just for major events on the National Grid, but also for the much more numerous power cuts experienced locally every day.
“The IET/ESC’s Future Power Systems Architecture (FPSA) Programme has been exploring these issues in considerable depth. It has concluded that to ensure that new and old technology, business models, security, resilience, redundancy and cross-sector cooperation can be effective in these situations our governance structures have to be modernised before technical and commercial solutions can deliver the value society now expects.”
Notes to Editors:
About the IET
- Looking for images to accompany your engineering stories? Use the IET’s media image library to highlight the exciting, creative and dynamic world of engineering.
- Interview opportunities are available with IET spokespeople from a broad range of engineering and technology disciplines including cyber-security, energy, engineering skills, innovation, manufacturing, technology, transport and women in engineering.
- The IET is one of the world’s largest engineering institutions with 169,000 members in over 150 countries. It is also the most interdisciplinary – to reflect the increasingly diverse nature of engineering in the 21st century. Energy, transport, manufacturing, information and communications, and the built environment: the IET covers them all.
- The IET is working to engineer a better world by inspiring, informing and influencing our members, engineers and technicians, and all those who are touched by, or touch, the work of engineers.
- We want to build the profile of engineering and change outdated perceptions about engineering in order to tackle the skills gap. This includes encouraging more women to become engineers and growing the number of engineering apprentices.
- For more information, visit www.theiet.org
- Follow the IET on Twitter.
Media enquiries to:
External Communications Manager
T: +44 (0)1438 765 618
M: +44 (0)7725 498 129
Senior Communications Executive
T: 01438 765686
M: +44 (0)7872 844 422