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Series following the work that goes into running one of the 'Big Six' energy companies, SSE. This documentary series follows the staff over a year as they keep the countries power flowing.

Genres: Family
Station: BBC Four (UK)
Rating: 0/10 from 0 users
Status: To Be Determined
Start: 2015-11-17

Power To The People Season 1 Air Dates


S01E01 - Keeping the Lights On Air Date: 17 November 2015 21:00 -

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We take electricity for granted - never giving a second thought to how it's made. In this observational documentary series, one of Britain's controversial Big Six energy companies, SSE, has let the cameras in.Filmed over a year, this is the surprising story of an army of workers battling to keep our power flowing.

It's a battle that matters to all of us, with future blackouts possible. Once, we had a healthy surplus of electricity, but now, as we close down old power stations, the margin between what we generate and what we use is smaller than ever. This episode goes inside one of Britain's biggest - and oldest - power stations, Ferrybridge C in West Yorkshire, as it struggles to stay switched on.

Ferrybridge once produced almost 5 per cent of the entire nation's power, but as a coal-fired plant, the future for the power station - and its 180 staff - is now uncertain.

Ken Valentine is the maintenance controller, and has worked at Ferrybridge for more than 30 years. 'When I retire and leave here, I want this place to keep going,' he says. 'Because it's an asset to the country. It makes electricity and the world runs on it, doesn't it?'

But Ferrybridge is hit first by a fire, and then misses out on a crucial contract. The company's chief executive, Alistair Phillips-Davies, faces a decision. 'I think the writing's on the wall for UK coal,' he admits.

Meanwhile, we follow technicians being flown out by helicopter to the company's latest big-ticket investment - the world's second largest offshore wind farm, Greater Gabbard, a £1.7 billion array of 140 wind turbines, fifteen miles off the Suffolk coast. Ken Valentine isn't impressed though. 'Wind's great, but it's not windy all the time, is it?' he says.

With coal stocks running low at Ferrybridge, and the maintenance budget being cut, can the power station keep pumping out the electricity we need, or will it be switched off for good? And if it's closed down, can we keep the lights on?


S01E02 - It's Not Easy Being Green Air Date: 24 November 2015 21:00 -

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We take electricity for granted - never giving a second thought to how it's made. In this observational documentary series, one of Britain's controversial Big Six energy companies, SSE, has let the cameras in.Filmed over a year, this is the surprising story of an army of workers battling to keep our power flowing.

In this episode, we follow the people behind the giant gamble that could revolutionise our energy supply - by making it go green. From £3.5bn being spent on wind power by SSE to a massive new power line for green energy being built down the spine of Scotland, this is the story of an engineering project on a colossal scale. It's transforming some of our most remote and beautiful landscapes - but at what cost?

We meet Paul 'Chicken' McDermott and his gang as they build a wind turbine from scratch in just one day at Britain's newest wind farm. There's a storm coming in, so Chicken has to get the 230ft-high turbine up before nightfall.

800 contractors are labouring to finish a gigantic new power line, the Beauly-Denny line, which will stretch across 137 miles of Scotland's wildest countryside - to carry the power from remote wind farms to the cities where it's consumed. Andy 'Chopper' Simpson is masterminding the ticklish task of 'stringing' - threading cable through new pylons - by helicopter. To finish the line, the specialist skills of a gang of Filipino pylon-builders are called upon. The new power line was one of the most objected-to construction projects in recent history. 'I feel quite bitter that it's been imposed on us,' says Sir John Lister-Kaye, who lives near the line.

It's not all new technology. One of our oldest forms of renewable energy - hydroelectric power - is being worked harder than ever in the bid to get more of our electricity from clean, green sources. But the dams, lochs and turbines of the hydroelectric power system don't run themselves. High in the hills above Loch Lomond, Bobby Bennett and his team of 'watermen' are digging a ditch to make sure every drop of water that falls on the hills here makes its way down to the turbines below.

Alastair Stephen, the company's in-house ecologist, is trying to make sure that young salmon - known as smolts - are able to make their way past the dams of the hydroelectric schemes. He and colleagues from the Fisheries Board decide to take drastic action when they find out not enough young salmon are making it past the dams. They set up a fish taxi service, transporting the salmon downriver by road, to give them a chance of making it out to sea.


S01E03 - The Customer Is Always Right Air Date: 01 December 2015 21:00 -

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In the final episode, we follow the story of SSE attempting to turn around its reputation - following criticism in parliament, fines for mis-selling and hundreds of thousands of customers leaving the company. 'I'm not sure I'm going to make people love the energy sector,' admits chief executive Alistair Phillips-Davies. 'I'm not like a rock star getting on stage here and hitting the first chord of a great song.'

Alistair entrusts one of his lieutenants, Will Morris, with the job of making us feel differently about SSE. Will commissions an expensive new advert about 'the fun electricity brings to our lives', featuring Maya, a computer-generated orangutan.

Down on the ground, the company's linesmen are getting on with the job of replacing cables and wires, some dating dating back to the 1930s. Linesman Kevin Wade admits he's survived a few electric shocks replacing these cables. But bad weather is on the way - a storm hits and operations manager Bev Keogh must despatch linesmen to repair cables brought down by falling trees. Some customers lose power for hours.

No sooner has the company weathered that storm than the energy sector is in trouble again - this time for not cutting its gas prices fast enough when wholesale costs fall. SSE agrees to cut its gas price, but Alistair Phillips-Davies says the cut will put a £60m dent in the company's income.

We're all using less electricity than we used to - so energy companies like SSE are trying to sell us other products as well. In the company's call centres, they take the opportunity of customers phoning in with a complaint to offer them a broadband deal or phone package. Maya the CGI orangutan is enlisted to help sell the broadband deal in her latest advert.

At the end of the year, Alistair has managed to nudge the company's profits up - as broadband sales increase and customer satisfaction goes up too. But another half-a-million customers have still left the company.

Power To The People Actors

Fi Glover(Narrator)



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