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Power to the People

This three-part OU/BBC series looks at SSE, one of the Big Six energy companies, and how they are battling to keep electricity flowing to our homes.

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Pylon construction with workers from SSE (BBC PROGRAMME USE ONLY) Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Kelly Machin/ Blast Films We take electricity for granted – never giving a second thought to how it’s made. Now, for this major new OU/BBC FOUR 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.

As series co-producer, we've collated a range of content to help take your learning further and complement Power to the People. You can:

The first epiosde of Power to the People will air on Tuesday 17th November at 9PM on BBC FOUR. Full broadcast details and watch again links can be found on bbc.co.uk

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Episode 3: The Customer is Always Right

In this 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 orang-utan.

Down on the ground, the company’s linesmen are getting on with the job of replacing cables and wires dating back to the 1930s in some cases. 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 orang-utan 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…

Episodes in this series

Episode Description
Episode 1: Keeping the Lights On The first episode of this series looks at the number of power stations closing down in an age when we are using more... Read more
Episode 2: It's Not Easy Being Green The second episode of Power to the People looks at 'green' energy and the backlash facing planners who want to build... Read more
Episode 3: The Customer is Always Right The final episode looks at how SSE are trying to win back their customers' trust following criticism from Parliament. Read more