We commissioned 8 generator sets this year on 6 sites and provided technical support and maintenance at many other sites at home and abroad.  We visited Turkey, Norway, India, Libya, Angola, Nigeria, Spain, Russia, Romania and Poland.

Although Power System Protection is very much main stream business and let it always be, we are now receiving lots of requests for help with operation of generator controls – not just excitation and  synchronising but load management too.  Another area where we have developed a lot of expertise is in writing Excel spreadsheets for management of projects in electricity distribution.  We have staff dedicated to this type of work.

We were pleased to provide a significant amount of design and testing services for the manufacturers of 400 kV substation protection equipment which was ultimately destined for National Grid.  We were also pleased to help with a considerable amount of EMC laboratory testing of relays as we did last year.

Recruitment of engineering graduates to train to do power is now really difficult.  What’s the problem? you might say. So many universities are not running power courses any more and youngsters are not choosing to do engineering and other applied science, so increase pay and let market forces act to correct the shortfall.  This is right of course in the long run but there are two reasons why this is not such a good idea.  Firstly, market forces take time to have an effect, perhaps 5 years in our industry.  The decision makers are 17 year old sixth formers.  This is when choices are made about university subjects if not career paths.  Engineering as an industry in the UK is a shadow of what it once was and so there is not the same pool of recruits to provide liquidity in the market to cover the interim period.  Secondly, the labour market which we might think will save the day, is international and this means that recruits can come from any part of the world, but more importantly, they can do work in their home country.  Internet communications are so good that it is now quite possible for engineers working in, say India, to be fed with work and results returned to the UK as though from the office next door.  Do we want our infrastructure and by that we mean electricity, water, telecoms ... to rely on a skills base that is remote from the UK?

The electricity supply industry is well known to us and it now has a chronic skilled labour shortage.  This is a result of large numbers of experienced engineers, now 60+ years old, having left the industry through early retirement schemes of one sort or another and having now retired properly with no wish to work longer.  The problem is recognised but attempts to correct the situation, though well meant, have been a case of too little too late.  Companies such as our own are asked to fill some of the gaps but even we cannot conjure up engineers out of thin air.  Coupled with this, third party suppliers are being squeezed in their margins which takes away incentives to recruit and train.  Overall the picture is grim, not especially for our company because a lean market can even be good for business, but for UK plc as a whole.  What is needed is a concerted policy of recruiting hundreds if not thousands of youngsters each year, to reinvigorate the university departments that have done such good work in the past and to make careers in power really attractive.  It’s not going to happen, is it?

We have kept up with the state of thinking in the energy business, greenhouse worries and so on, by attending conferences and seminars.  Though it hardly affects our work in the company, we feel we ought to know what is going on.  Should you buy a wind turbine from B&Q and fix it to your roof?  Well, no, you would be wiser and kinder to the environment if you spent your money on extra insulation of your home.  That’s engineering for you; sometimes the obvious things just need stating.

The directors of the company thank all our staff and our clients and consultants and friends
for their loyalty and trust during 2007.

We wish them all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

John Sanderson, Director, 11 December 2007