black transmission towers under green sky

SSEN New Transformer for West Challow – Update

On receipt of an email from SSEN saying that the probate issue for a further transformer upgrade is now complete and there would be an additional 85kVA capacity installed, Eoin and I wrote the following email to Craig Rankin, Head of SSEN Ridgeway:

“Dear Craig

We were pleased to hear that the probate situation has been finally resolved in West Challow and also with the continuing good performance of the replacement 315 kVA transformer in the spring/summer months.

However, we remain concerned that installing just an additional pole mounted 85kVA supply to the existing 315kVA does not appear to future-proof the supply of electricity to the village.  This is even more so now in the light of recent massive increases in oil prices as we are even more convinced that West Challow (mainly oil fired) will be a candidate for heat pumps in the near term.  As you know, there is future, approved planning for 4 new properties in West Challow and given the increasing trend for new build in the Vale of the White Horse, this will likely impact on our village as well in the nearer future.   As a rural village, the recent dramatic increases in petrol and diesel prices will no doubt accelerate the transition of villagers to using electric cars and vans.

It is certain that the electricity demand in West Challow is going to increase considerably in the next few years.  In your correspondence with our MP, David Johnston, in January 2021 you wrote:

“We want to ensure that the solution will future proof the network for a significant period of time.  We do not want to put a fix into West Challow that then needs readdressed in 5 year’s time.”

We are not confident that an extra 85kVA supply will achieve your promise to our MP and believe that any marginal increase in cost for a higher rated pole transformer would represent a good investment for future electricity supply.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Best wishes

Jean & Eoin Lees


Eoin and I then received the following reply from one of  the Customer Services team:

“Thank you for your email, I am sorry that you remain concerned with our upgrade plans in the West Challow area and I hope that I am able to address these.

I have spoken in great depth with the design manager this morning and I would like to advise and assure you that we have completed extensive network studies so the increase in load capacity we have designed for is fit for purpose and we have been mindful of potential future load increases on our network.  We appreciate the supply reliability issues that you have experienced and do not want to find ourselves back at this point again in the near future so it is in our best interests to correctly design and increase the supply capacity with future supply demand increases in mind.

We increased the load and installed a 315 kVa transformer in place of the previous 200 kVa transformer.  Following this, when the power tripped again we continued to monitor and rebalanced the loads splitting the load over the phases, installing the 315 kVa was a precautionary measure and we are confident that the rebalancing works on the phases has been the main contributing factor in ensuring the supply has been reliable to date.  As an additional measure we have planned to further increase the capacity to 400 kVa to go over and above what is needed and allow for fluctuations and increases on the network to a certain degree. Unfortunately, I am limited in what I can disclose regarding capacity supply and demand as this is sensitive information, however we are happy and confident that our decision to install an additional pole mounted transformer is the correct decision to take.  Moving forward the load capacity will be split over two pole mounted transformers with a 200 kVa transformer on each.

I can appreciate your concerns about the future and would like to reassure you that any increase of load on our network must be applied for and will be considered on a case by case basis.  If an application of load increase is found to have a detrimental effect for our existing customers’ supply reliability then that will be addressed and a solution to this achieved before an agreement to connect any additional load to our network takes place.  This takes place as part of our application process.

I hope that this gives you some reassurances that we have carefully planned for the upgrade of the load capacity on the network and informs you that we have processes in place to deal with additional load increase applications on our network to ensure supply reliability for our existing customers.”


This is the first time we have been told that they are going to replace the new 315kVA  transformer with two new 200kVA pole mounted transformers.  It seems odd to us to remove the 315 kVA when just one additional 200kVA could be added , totalling 515kVA which should really future proof the electricity supply to the village.  Since the start of 2022, SSEN have studiously avoided our requests for their measurements of village electricity demand per phase in the period January to March.  Their claim that this is ” sensitive information” seems peculiar for a regulated monopoly distributor which has no potential competition.

We intend to make the above points to SSEN but before doing so, would welcome your views and comments.

Jean & Eoin Lees