The country’s largest electricity distribution company is investing £24 million a year and rolling out new software to help cut back trees and prevent power cuts.
UK Power Networks will invest the sum over the next three years to make the electricity network more resilient so its eight million customers will have even fewer power cuts – thanks to a new data analysis system called ‘TRIM’.
The new Tree Risk Investment Model was invented by a member of staff and was tried out last year with great success. The innovative software can produce a priority list of where to cut trees so they don’t come into contact with power lines, after analysing the number of historic power cuts, how many properties are connected to that circuit, and how many spans of cables there are in the area.
The prioritised list, based on real-life data, helps tree cutters work in the most effective way. The success of the method, used first as a pilot in the South East and then in the East of England, has led to the company investing £24 million a year over the next three years to help reduce the number of power lines damaged by trees and branches, particularly during storms.
Commercial manager Mike Leicester used to work as a tree clearance contractor for UK Power Networks until he joined the company full time. He says, “The main idea was to provide the business user with an easy to use, fast response, one page dashboard solution. I am delighted it has worked and the company is now going to make it more automated.”
Power supplies are 99% reliable, partly thanks to the continual tree cutting programme, with the company working closely with landowners, and staying mindful of the environmental impact and birds nesting.
Tree manager Bill Blackburn says, “This is a real positive step forward. We can make data-based decisions on when and where to target tree cutting. It will start to make a difference to customers, helping prevent interruptions to power caused by adverse weather like storms.”
Sam Smith from contractors TreeSmiths, comments, “We have found this to be a really positive step forward in minimising faults and as such, reducing power cuts.
“With the new data tool in use, we are now being steered to the high priority feeders and circuits. UK Power Networks can now define exactly which area is a priority, ensuring our resources are being utilised to maximum efficiency. We have no doubt this is a really great tool to be using to pinpoint the areas in need of vegetation clearance with high volumes of customers before they become an issue.”