Brian Tapley never thought he would follow in his father’s footsteps. As a young graduate, he never imagined working in the same industry as his old man.
“My father retired from ESB in December 2009,” Brian explains. “He worked in the company for the majority of his career. He was very proud of it and enjoyed his time there. He saw it as a progressive company that would provide opportunities for development and growth. I would say he encouraged me to look at ESB Networks as a graduate coming out of college.”
Brian listened and he soon began to realise the opportunities that ESB Networks offered.
“I’ve never been more than four or five years in a role,” he explains. “I’ve worked in everything from network construction to electrical operations, telecoms to regulation. I thoroughly enjoy what I have done within the company and what I continue to do. I see it as a public service.”
In his current role as customer delivery manager for the greater Dublin region, Brian manages a team of 280 people. His team includes 220 electrical network technicians, 33 engineering designers all supported by a team of supervisors, managers and the National Customer Contact Centre serving over 900,000 customers.
One of his team’s primary tasks is maintaining the area’s electricity network, essentially keeping the lights on by keeping customer outages to an absolute minimum. Unplanned power outages do happen due to severe weather events and planned outages are necessary so that network technicians can safely carry out essential work on the network.
“There are about 2.3 million customers nationally that ESB Networks serves,” Brian explains. “Think about it, every house, apartment, business, farm, school, hotel or hospital is an ESB Networks customer. So, you can imagine on any given day, there is something happening on the network that requires our response. For example, connecting a new housing development in Portmarnock, responding to a cable fault in Rialto or connecting a new Covid-19 test centre in Lucan.
“The network is complex, nationally comprising of 140,000km of overhead power lines, 19,000km of underground cables, 630 high voltage substations, 230,000 medium voltage transformers and 2.3 million meters. It crosses farms, runs under public roadways, up main streets and down boreens. It serves in every community.”
To support the network and serve customers, ESB Networks needs a variety of competencies and technical skill sets.
“In essence, the electricity distribution network helps to keep everyone and everything powered in the country,” Brian states. “It’s like maintaining your car. If you don’t regularly service it, your car will break down when you need it most. If the network isn’t maintained and reinforced, and if we don’t have skilled technicians who can respond during a fault or a storm, our customers could be left in the dark. It’s true to say that we, as a team are responsible for keeping the lights on.”
As you can imagine, safety is a core value for Brian’s team, especially when repairing the network following a fault or during a storm.
“It’s about balancing risk and priorities,” he explains. “You might have a lot of customers without power because of a fault. During a storm for example, a big part of our role is prioritising where we go first and risk assessing if it is safe to do so. We need to weigh up the risk of dispatching our technicians out in a storm versus the risk of people not having power.
“You have to get the work done. You have to perform and deliver the service efficiently, but you must do it safely. We are dealing with electricity, it must be respected. We can’t get it wrong as the consequences are too severe. My team are always balancing those conflicting risks and priorities. That’s a big part of the team’s responsibility. We never rush or take shortcuts but we’re always bearing in mind that customers can be without power or customers may need a connection.”
For Brian, providing this essential service safely is the most important part of his job. To him, customer confidence is a top priority.
“Ultimately, our business is about serving our customers, that’s the purpose of the distribution network. It powers our homes, schools, businesses, public services and is increasingly being used to heat buildings and charge vehicles,” Brian explains. “Everything from the government, to local businesses, to families at home, they need to have confidence that our network is reliable and that we will respond quickly 24/7.
“The strange thing I often think is people don’t really notice ESB Networks until a storm hits and the power or ‘our service’ goes. How many times in your lifetime has the power gone in your house? For the vast majority of our customers it’s very rare. No matter where you live, no matter what the weather conditions, no matter when an outage happens, we dispatch our team to restore power whether you’re one customer or whether you’re part of a large outage with thousands of customers.
“Customer confidence that the lights will stay on has never been more important, especially now with people working from home, self-isolating, cocooning or just generally coping with the Covid-19 pandemic. They can be assured that we will continue to keep the country powered.”
To find out more please visit the ESB Networks website.