Electrical Times was out on the town last night, quaffing port and dropping smoked trout down the shirt front at the Electrical Contractors’ Association’s annual dinner in London.

ECA president, Charles McKinnon’s speech showed how closely the Association is now working with the Labour government. Skills, local authority contracts, procurement, certification, retentions and the Building Regulations are all major ECA concerns.

Just to show how close, the construction minister, Nigel Griffiths MP, was down as the main speaker. He did not turn up. Instead, he sent a pre-recorded video of himself - unfortunately, not quite a blockbuster.

Dealing with government can be frustrating - as McKinnon described - when working on the education and training front.

“We worked, throughout 2003, with the government on the Sector Skills Council. This culminated with the establishment of SummitSkills in December 2003. It has to be said that the government-driven bureaucracy was appalling. We got there in the end but what a wasteful journey,” said McKinnon.

The after-dinner speaker was Sir Clement Freud, ex-liberal MP, raconteur and foodie. He ended the evening with a story about a doctor telling a man he had only eight hours to live.

The man went home and told his wife.

She asked him if he wanted to go to his favourite restaurant.

No.

“Do want to see the final part of The Lord of the Rings?”

No.

“Well what do you want to do?” she asked.

“I want to go to bed and make love all night,” he said.

“Yeah, it's alright for you,” said the wife. “You don’t have to get up in the morning.”

The next ECA event is the annual conference on 9 to 11 May. This year it is in Portugal and always worth attending. Tel 01273 464662 for more information.

The largest hydro-electric project in the world, China's Three Gorges project, began to supply electricity to energy-intensive manufacturers in the southern Guangdong Province this week.

The power station is expected to transmit 8.16 billion kWh of electricity to the province this year.

Six generators went into operation in 2003, producing 8.6 billion kWh of electricity. Three Gorges Project will produce 30.9 billion kWh of electricity this year.

Four more generators, with an installed capacity of 700,000 kW each, are scheduled to start operation respectively in March, May, July and September this year to bring the total number of generating units in operation to 10.

Since the first generating unit began operation on 10 July, 2003, the Three Gorges Project has supplied electricity to 10 provinces and municipalities in central, eastern and southwestern China.

The project is located between the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River in Yichang City. With a total investment of 21.76bn US dollars, the project started in 1993 and is scheduled for completion in 2009.

The power station is designed to have a total of 26 generating units, each with an installed capacity of 700,000 kW. When all units are in operation, the station will be able to generate 84.7 billion kWh of electricity annually.

A woman was recently electrocuted while walking her dog in East Village, New York. Civic Association president Bob Holden said he has complained to the utility, Con Edison, about exposed live wiring on neighbourhood streets for many years. In 2000, he reported dozens of locations where exposed wiring had been re-taped around the outside of street lighting columns and Holden once found young children using a cable attached to a lighting column as a swing. Before he could stop them, it shorted, blacking out the street.

When he complained about an exposed street junction box, Con Edison covered it with brown paper, which has since worn away.

Con Edison said that of the 100,000 street lighting columns inspected, 157 were found to have stray voltages. After testing more than half of its 250,000 manhole and service box covers, it found it had 110 hot spots.

Barrow council's Gillian Beckingham has been charged with seven counts of manslaughter over the 2002 Legionnaires' disease outbreak at the council-run Forum 28 arts centre - with the council also served with summonses.

The design services manager will appear before magistrates on 24 February.

As well as the fatalities, some 170 people contracted the disease which was traced to the arts centre's 30-year-old air conditioning system.

Heating and ventilating engineers concerned by this precident may wish to view Extra Issue 31 for details of a budget particle counter being developed by Worcestershire-based Facility Monitoring Systems to counter Legionniares' disease.

The Specialist Engineering Contractors Group (SECG) met the Treasury's chief secretary Paul Boateng this month to discuss retentions.

An estimated £3.25bn in cash retentions is funded by SMEs every year with the annual cost to the public purse an estimated £750m. The public sector is responsible for 40% by volume of all construction work in the UK.

House of Commons Select Committee reports have urged government departments to lead by example by adopting new procurement practises and a uniform approach to phasing out retentions.

The Treasury is reluctant to commit to a timescale for phasing out retentions, focusing instead on

A free CPD seminar - part of the Leonardo Power Quality Initiative - aims to help electrical contractors and installers understand the theory behind power problems and provide practical guidance on their identification, measurement and mitigation in LV installations. Content includes measurement techniques, availability concepts and back-up power supplies, short and long term monitoring, mitigation methods and the role of the earthing system. Presenters are from the UK Power Quality Partnership, as well as Fluke, Rhopoint systems and MGE UPS Systems. The seminars begin on 9 March. To reserve places, e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Hartlepool-based CBL Contractors has bagged a lucrative contract for cabling and electrical installation work on the new Wembley stadium.

Worth some £10m, the deal will enable the firm to create up to 200 jobs over two years. CBL already has experience of stadium work, having won contracts for Cardiff

Scottish and Southern Energy has announced its preferred route for a 400kV electricity transmission line, which must be built between the Highlands and the Central Belt of Scotland if the company is to meet the government

Electricity firms will not be prosecuted for the power cuts that hit south London and Kent on 28 August and the West Midlands on 5 September.

The energy minister, Stephen Timms, said findings from an investigation will be passed on to the electricity companies concerned ?so that they can take the necessary action to enhance the robustness of their networks, and so make such occurrences less likely?.

The investigation, carried out by DTI