Ofgem today announced a review of transmission and distribution networks’ responses to Storm Arwen, as thousands of homes awaited reconnection after seven days of cold and dark.
The regulator’s enquiry will focus on DNOs’ and transcos’ efforts to restore service, and retailers’ communications with customers, it said.
A week after the storm struck Scotland, the north of England and Wales, Ofgem today estimated 10,500 premises are still be re-connected. Almost one million homes had had service restored, the regulator acknowledged.
The regulator said its enquiry would be assisted by its engineers on the ground, and would be directed at establishing the facts of the disruption. Enforcement action could follow against operators, it indicated. Full terms of reference for the probe will be published on Monday.
After talks with the regulator, network companies have agreed to raise compensation levels, Ofgem confirmed. Instead of claims capped at £700, affected customers can now claim up to £140 for every day left without power supply, the regulator said.
Energy minister Greg Hands yesterday toured call centres in the North of England. Speaking this lunchtime on BBC Radio 4, he defended charges that DNOs had prioritised dividends to shareholders over emergency response, and pointed to compensation payments available to customers.
Ofgem’s chief executive Jonathan Brearley said: “We understand this is a really worrying time for people who are without heat and power as the severity of Storm Arwen has hit homes and businesses.
“We accept the network companies have been working in challenging conditions, but until every home in Britain has power restored, that relentless effort must continue.
“We have strict rules on how network companies need to operate in these circumstances, and we will take action if needed.
Ofgem’s chief engineer Peter Bingham said: “We’re onsite in the hardest hit areas of Scotland and the North of England to see for ourselves the enormous challenge network companies have had”.
In Scotland alone, disruption over last weekend was put by one source at 126,000 SSE customers and 79,000 Scottish Power users. Holyrood’s deputy first minister John Swinney told MSPs that as of late morning on Tuesday, 16,743 were without power.
The Energy Networks Association claimed yesterday that its members had handled 82,000 distress calls over the week of Arwen’s disruption. At its height, calls had been peaking at 16,000 per hour.