31 december 2010

Vladimir Putin meets with Moscow Region Governor Boris Gromov, Minister of Energy Sergei Shmatko and IDGC Holding’s Director General Nikolai Shvets

The discussion focused on restoring electricity in Moscow Region towns dealing with outages due to bad weather. At the end of the meeting, Vladimir Putin told his interlocutors, “Divide the towns between the three of you, go there and explain to people what is going on and when things will get back to normal. And please report back on the results of your work by the morning.”

Transcript of the meeting:

Vladimir Putin: The minister reported to me today that airports have started operating. He is now in Sheremetyevo. What about communities? Mr Gromov, you told me the day before yesterday that everything would be up and running by 6.00 p.m. It's now 5.45 p.m. How do things stand right now?

Boris Gromov: This deadline was agreed upon with power engineers. Out of the 789 communities and 400,000 people who were affected by this terrible weather, 35 settlements and 4,000 people still had no electricity by 5 p.m. All social facilities are functioning normally, without any interruptions, and we are restoring the normal electricity supply in communities – both large and small. These communities have no problems. We sent 380 teams that have completed work on grids for local government bodies to help the workers that are repairing high-voltage power lines. Municipal grids in these 35 communities are ready to transmit high-voltage electricity.

Sergei Shmatko: Mr Putin, this morning 300 communities, including gardening companies, were without electricity.

Upon your instructions, the work was sped up and verified. A lot of things were done by 4.00 p.m. I would like to report that, according to our statistics, the lights aren't working for about 4,000 people living in 35 communities. We think that there is a serious problem with the functioning of the local grid organisations. I reported to you some time ago that it was difficult to work with them. We think that local grid organisations must be regulated differently and supervised more closely. We have discussed the need to develop a proper monitoring system for this sector.

The current emergency shows that ordinary private owners of local grid organisations cannot handle this kind of emergency work.

In light of this, we are appealing to you to introduce the draft government resolution on regulation of local grid organisations and their interaction with the distribution grid complex.

In our opinion, we need stricter oversight and a stricter uniform technical policy. We have tried unsuccessfully to contact owners of some local grid organisations. I mean...

Vladimir Putin: And you (addressing Nikolai Shvets), did you try to help?

Nikolai Shvets: There are 24 local organisations which are part of the united Moscow Region company. They – except for private organisations – are absolutely manageable. The most difficult situation is in the Ruza District, Lenin District and Podolsk District. The grids there go to consumers but not from local organisations.

And, of course, we have been in constant contact with everyone. In general, there is iron discipline here.

Vladimir Putin: Did you hear what the minister said?

Nikolai Shvets: Yes.

Vladimir Putin: So you don't agree with him?

Nikolai Shvets: No, I agree. I just wanted to add to what he said.

Vladimir Putin: Do you agree with his proposal?

Nikolai Shvets: Yes, I agree.

Vladimir Putin: So they are working ineffectively?

Nikolai Shvets: Some of them - yes, a part...

Vladimir Putin: What are the proposals?

Sergei Shmatko: Mr Putin, we think that, having structured the grid complex, our company, which is state-run, must engage more actively in the consolidation of assets in this area and make tougher technical requirements regarding the functioning of such grid organisations in order to properly asses their ability to function independently and fix problems like this...

Vladimir Putin: Mr Shmatko, what specifically shall we do with them?

Sergei Shmatko: We shall introduce tough qualification requirements and, if needed, consolidate assets in the country's distribution complex.

Vladimir Putin: How? Tell me in plain Russian what specifically we will do with them.

Sergei Shmatko: I believe we must carefully analyse relations with them. Our grids deal with them on a daily basis, so they have some experience with them. Based on available information, we understand that we need to better monitor their technical policy and the money spent on investment and modernisation. There must be oversight. Everything should be transparent to us.

We were told in the past, "This is private property, don't interfere." But we understand that organisations operating in socially important spheres must operate under strict rules and take responsibility for their work. Considering this, we believe it is necessary to introduce tougher requirements regarding personnel qualifications, spending on modernisation and oversight of it. If they cannot handle this, we will be forced to propose that they be consolidated...

Vladimir Putin: What is consolidation? Tell me in plain Russian.

Sergei Shmatko: To acquire them, buy them out, if necessary...

Vladimir Putin: Who will acquire them? Who will buy them?

Sergei Shmatko: We believe it will be the IDGC Holding (the Holding of Interregional Distribution Grid Companies)...

Vladimir Putin: Should they take over their property?

Sergei Shmatko: They should.

Vladimir Putin: Then say it plainly: we will take over their property. We will pay a fair price, but we will take over their property.

Sergei Shmatko: That's correct, Mr Putin. We will set a deadline of three to four months to carry out a full inventory and, if the outcome is negative, we will take over their property.

Vladimir Putin: When will you submit these proposals?

Sergei Shmatko: We will submit proposals on the necessary regulatory acts in January. In four months we will submit to you a report on our proposals regarding specific systems and constituent entities.

Vladimir Putin: Are you in contact with them now? Have you located them? Where are they? Because I told the governor today: people come to these offices to find only security guards there. Have you located them?

Sergei Shmatko: Mr Putin, the heads of these grid organisations and teams have been sent to the areas to talk with people. We discussed it today with the governor.

I also would like to inform you that our company MOESK has introduced a so-called "light line" – a free hot line, 8-800-700-40-70, so that any person can share information with the staff at the call centre. We have instituted disciplinary measures at the company in the event that a person's call is left unattended or a person is not given the information they requested.

Vladimir Putin: How long will it take to have all the 35 communities reconnected?

Sergei Shmatko: Given the fact that that maintenance services of grid companies are in charge of about three fourths of the facilities, I can say that we will have reversed the current trend by tomorrow noon. We have to bear in mind that situation always deteriorates a bit at night…

Vladimir Putin: Mr Gromov?

Boris Gromov: Mr Putin, Mr Shmatko knows that local problems are not entirely to blame; much depends on the companies, for example the Interregional Distribution Grid Company, which operate the high-voltage lines. There are a number of reasons, including how long the equipment has been in service. In response to the current winter conditions we had to have these machines towed by tractors. I’m referring to power pylons. In addition, the wood clearings for these power transmission lines are old and overgrown. At some point, felling the trees that were hanging over power lines was prohibited.

All this ultimately resulted in 789 communities experiencing outages due to downed power lines.

Vladimir Putin: Have they been restored?

Boris Gromov: On the whole, yes, they have been restored. Much work has been done by these organisations and our regional one. We have deployed many workers, tractors and machines that can travel through difficult terrain. 

Vladimir Putin: How many power transmission lines have not been restored yet?

Sergei Shmatko: As of today, only two power feed substations remain disconnected. But this is just a drop in the bucket.

Vladimir Putin: How much more time will it take to restore everything? (Addressing Nikolai Shvets) How many facilities remain disconnected?

Nikolai Shvets: As of 6 p.m. December 30 only one 110 kV traction substation, Kresty, remained disconnected. But only a small number of households is powered by it…

Vladimir Putin: Did you hear me? I asked – how many facilities remain disconnected? How long will it take to restore them

Nikolai Shvets: We plan to restore them by 3 o’clock. During the night, approximately 300 new trees fell. Repair teams are working in the Domodedovo, Podolsk, and Ramenskoye districts.

Vladimir Putin: You could have seen the threat, couldn’t you? Why did you cut the trees down?

Nikolai Shvets: Mr Putin, we have cut down 50,000 trees already.

Vladimir Putin: But trees keep falling and damaging power lines, so you haven’t done enough.

Nikolai Shvets: We have to understand that we are facing an unprecedented anomaly in terms of scale, and we are working constantly.

Vladimir Putin: I understand that this is an anomaly. Mr Gromov, you told me that by 6 p.m. – it is 6 p.m. now – everything would have been restored.

Boris Gromov: Mr Putin, it does not depend on me alone. This is a group effort.

Vladimir Putin: Listen, I don’t want to know who it depends on – I mean I know who it depends on – but if you were not sure about the time you should have said so. You told me that you would have everything restored by 6 p.m. It is 6 p.m. and 4,000 people in 35 communities will be ringing in the New Year without electricity.

I suggest you go to these communities and celebrate the New Year with these people. Divide the towns between the three of you, go there and explain to people what is going on and when things will get back to normal. And please report back on the results of your work by the morning. Thank you very much.