Innovation Exchange challenge: Mechanised vegetation management near live power lines

Scottish & Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) Distribution seek mechanised hardware solutions for the management of vegetation near live power distribution lines.

Opportunity Details


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Pitch opportunity, pilot studies at SSEN Distribution sites, with the possibility of further adoption upon successful trials.

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Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) Distribution is responsible for ensuring a safe and reliable supply of electricity to 3.8 million customers in communities across its network in central southern England and the north of Scotland. SSEN have to undertake extensive vegetation management activities, including tree felling and pruning, to maintain safety clearances and avoid unplanned outages due to damage caused by falling trees or branches.

Typically, much of this work is done manually by specialist contractors or appropriately trained in-house staff. Tree cutting activities can vary depending upon the species being cut, availability of suitable access, landowner’s preferences, and the voltage level of the associated overhead line.

Currently a variety of cutting techniques are used:

  • From ground level using insulated rods
  • From appropriate access platforms – mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPS) etc
  • Where necessary, trees are climbed by specially trained staff to allow access to use chainsaws etc.

These manual approaches present health and safety challenges, especially when working on diseased or dead trees, such as ash trees affected by Ash Dieback. In this specific case, the trees become very unstable, leading to significant risk when employing conventional manual felling techniques.

Vegetation management activities cover all voltage levels within SSEN-D from low voltage (415V) up to 132kV, across the entire license area. Where safe and practical, the works are performed with live power lines to prevent interruption to power supplies, but where necessary planned outages are organized to ensure that works can be carried out safely.

The Challenge

SSEN Distribution invites innovators to present their innovative mechanised hardware solutions to cut back trees and other vegetation safely and effectively in the vicinity of live power lines.

Solutions should consider the working environment (i.e., trees in close vicinity to live lines up to 132kV, varied terrain, constrained access etc.) and worker health and safety.

For full technical and functional requirements, and further background on the challenge, visit the Innovation Exchange site at the link below.


Entrants to this competition must be:

  • Established businesses, start-ups, SMEs, academics, or individual entrepreneurs
  • UK based or have the intention to set up a UK base

Partnerships and consortia of organisations are welcome to apply to this competition.

If you feel you can only address part of this challenge, please apply, and clearly state which aspects of the challenge your solution can address.


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