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Questions put to National Grid Group (NGG) for their shareholders' Annual General Meeting on Friday 24 July 1998 by REVOLT Members.
Below are questions as indicated to NGG before the meeting. The questions where time allowed for them to be put orally at the meeting and addressed by the NGG Chairman and Board are marked with an asterisk(*). The questions may have varied in some cases when put orally.
1.* Can I note the almost 40% increase in the National Grid Group's share price, since the end of February 1998 - just before the date the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry decided to grant consent in March 1998, to the many parts of the Second Yorkshire Line. Can I then ask the Board what compensation they are planning to offer the residents in the wider vicinity of this line of huge pylons, who are not landowners. Also, what apologies do the board intend to give to them and the many other citizens who enjoy the landscape of the area between the North York Moors and the Yorkshire Dales as a source of inspiration and recreation - including those from the nearby conurbations of Teeside and West Yorkshire?
2. Can I be given some assurance about when representatives of National Grid will visit local communities in the area to listen properly to the concerns of local people - which they have avoided for many years. And, when will National Grid stop giving replies to questions from the media clearly intended to create conflict between the rural communities of North Yorkshire and their neighbours in Teeside - who have always otherwise had friendly and co-operative relationships?
3. *National Grid have offered huge inducements to local land-owners to agree to the line. To the credit of many who are able to, landowners continue to refuse these disgusting bribes. Can the Board give any evidence that they or National Grid have had any regard for the other people who live in the area or enjoy it? For instance, your policy on local communities states that, I quote, "We aim at building relationships.... with, local communities and environmental groups." The only relationship local people have met has been to be told by National Grid surveyors and contractors that if they don't give in then even bigger, uglier pylons will be built in their beautiful areas around the Vale of York. How do the National Grid Board and shareholders feel about making profits out of such statements
4.* When does the Board expect installation of the SECOND YORKSHIRE LINE to start and to be completed?
5. What does the Board expect to earn from the interconnector trading agreement with Scottish power companies in the event the second Yorkshire line SECOND YORKSHIRE LINE should be installed?
6. Have the Board any comments on the statement of the Chairman of Scottish Power, Ian Robinson, in his Annual Report, I quote, "The key aim is to ... maximise utilisation by increasing sales outside Scotland. ... Final approval from the President of the Board of Trade for the upgrade of the North Yorkshire Transmission Line, clears the way for the upgrade of the Anglo-Scottish interconnector."
7. How does National Grid's roughshod treatment of the North Yorkshire Countryside by erecting over 200 huge pylons then compare with Scottish Power's replacement in Wales of overhead power lines at Porthdinllaen village with underground cables. I have here a photo from Scottish Power's Annual Report - does National Grid consider the English countryside as less important than that of Scotland or Wales?
8. Given the revelation in the Transmission Price Control Review by Offer in 1996, that NGC anticipates an increase in constraint costs, and therefore in grid operating costs, due to the installation of the Second Yorkshire Line, and given that OFFER gave written advice that this would be due to knock-on effects of increased power flow from Scotland, destined for the South of England, needing reinforcements elsewhere in England, can you give details of these anticipated reinforcements, including their location, connection points, voltage and approximate length of all new lines which would be required?
9.* Has NGG been made aware of the potential imminent closure of Blyth A and Blyth B power stations and does it accept that this would reverse the case for the SECOND YORKSHIRE LINE?
10.* What is the Board's view about emerging government energy policy and targets for COMBINED HEAT AND POWER stations?
11. Does the Board accept that the implication of these policies is for fewer power stations and for the location of generation closer to demand, with reduced need for transmission, reinforcing the trend already begun through more cost-reflective regulation?
12. Will the Board recognise that NGC's pressing for the SECOND YORKSHIRE LINE runs counter to emerging policies and trends?
13. Will the Board accept that locating new power stations in the far north to serve net demand in the far south is very wasteful of energy and money, both in waste heat dumped at power stations with the opportunity cost of lost COMBINED HEAT AND POWER, and in losses in long-distance transmission? Our estimate is that a 2GW powerflow facilitated by the SECOND YORKSHIRE LINE would waste £500 million per year at wholesale prices, and that nationally £11b is wasted in the electricity industry.
14 How does the Board reconcile this development with modern inclusive business, bearing in mind the chairman's and NGC's show of support for the RSA's Tomorrow's Company movement, which emphasises considering all stakeholders in an inclusive approach to business strategy?
15. What is the Board's response to the claims, made by consultants and endorsed by OFFER in the 1996 Transmission Price Control Review, to the effect that excessive profits were due to NGC seriously overestimating its required expenditure?
16. How does the Board feel about the many thousands of concerned objectors to the SECOND YORKSHIRE LINE, including all the affected local authorities, MPs and MEPs and ranging from Arthur Scargill to the Archbishop of York?
17. Can the Board not aspire to make the Group a publicly respected asset in the national interest, more responsive to its range of stakeholders, given especially its central monopoly status?
18.* Can I make a constructive suggestion on behalf of REVOLT - Rural England Versus Overhead Line Transmission? Will the Board agree to agree to investigate, jointly with the proposers REVOLT, our suggestion of a millennium project to develop a state-of-the-art superconducting underground cable in place of the SECOND YORKSHIRE LINE, together with a world research centre on Teesside, which would help to put the National Grid Group and the UK to the fore of this important emerging and energy-saving technology? It would be important for the Group to use its resources to make a serious feasibility study and to produce an agreed joint report by December 1998.
19.* Will the Board agree to meet constructively with leading objectors to the SECOND YORKSHIRE LINE, before the end of August, to hear their concerns and to explore a better way forward?
20.* Noting the NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH SCIENCES international panel of experts meeting in the USA concluded that EMFs surrounding power lines should be regarded as a "possible human carcinogen" rather than as no risk, and noting the international body INTERNATIONAL COMMITTEE ON NON-IONISING RADIATION PROTECTION has adopted stricter safety levels than our own NRPB so that the electric (but not the magnetic) fields under power lines now exceed those levels, and noting how evidence of harmful effects of non-ionising radiation from mobile phones is becoming accepted after dismissal by the industry, will the Board now consider a policy of prudent avoidance, that is to avoid creating unnecessary new exposures where there are ways of avoiding them at low cost?
21.* Does the Board see comparisons with the denial of uncertain risk from other hazards such as BSE and CJD, which have then become acknowledged as risks with serious and costly effects on industry, and would the Board see the danger for the Group of pursuing denial too far and ignoring respectable advice that there is a possible but unproven risk?
22.* Would the Board comment on the seemingly low level of its Research & Development expenditure indicated in its Annual Review at barely more than 1% of gross profits, and state what steps it intends to take to improve efficiency of the transmission system over and above what appear to the layman to be relatively straight-forward house-keeping improvements it so far implemented. Or, does it intend to leave more forward-looking improvements up to others, at a cost to the environment and landscape of such areas as North Yorkshire?
23. In view of the present public outrage over the high level of remuneration of Directors and senior staff of the recently privatised utilities, are the board prepared to reduce the level of their remuneration. In so doing do they agree that they could give a lead also to shareholders to accept that the National Grid Group as a monopoly should operate with a degree of restraint and with responsibility to all sectors of society - including those proposed to be blighted by overhead power lines such as those proposed for North Yorkshire not required for the national need?
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