National Grid freshens up for £30bn upgrade

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The Independent Online

FTSE 100 utility National Grid is shaking up its UK management team with a view of investing £30bn on its transmission works and power plants by the end of the decade.

Staff will be told of the overhaul tomorrow in what will be a welcome distraction for the company. Last week chief executive Steve Holliday was publicly accused of sexual impropriety at the annual general meeting of Marks & Spencer, where he is a non-executive director. The accusations were made by the mother of a former National Grid employee.

It is understood Mr Holliday, who was cleared of the allegations in an internal National Grid investigation two years ago, is not under pressure. There had been whispers of "regime change", as one source close to the company put it, even before the allegations became public and were for unrelated reasons, but insiders said that Mr Holliday is staying put.

However, directors are likely to see their responsibilities updated to reflect the overhaul of the UK leadership team, which sits below board level. It is understood that this team will increase by about 50 per cent to around 15 people, so that the responsibilities of the huge investment programme do not prove too burdensome for any individual.

In a statement in response to requests for comment, the company told The Independent: "In order to deliver our capital investment programme of over £30bn over the next eight years, we have been reviewing our UK leadership structure, systems and processes over the past 12 months.

"We will be realigning our UK leadership team, which will be focused on investing in our business, both in terms of the talent of our teams and the innovative procedures that we adopt."

The proposals, which will be considered by Ofgem after they have been handed over this week, could raise household bills by up to £20 a year. However, Ofgem is unlikely to allow too much of a price hike, meaning that National Grid will have to cut its dividend or sell assets to fund much of the programme. About 70 per cent of National Grid's investment will go into electricity transmission networks and the other £9bn on gas pipelines. The UK's energy infrastructure is widely considered to be dated and require upgrades.

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