Ofgem fines energy firms for ‘appalling’ Storm Arwen disruption

Thousands of households in Britain faced “appalling conditions” when they were left without power for more than a week after Storm Arwen hit last year because power companies were underprepared, the industry watchdog has said.

Publishing its full report into the response of power distributors to the storm, Ofgem said they provided an “unacceptable service” to customers, with nearly 1m homes losing power and 4,000 of those cut off for longer than a week.

Three network operators – Northern Powergrid, Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks and Electricity North West – have paid nearly £30m in compensation to affected customers and have agreed to pay another £10.3m in “redress payments”. Ofgem said a total of £44m will have been paid by distribution network companies as a result of failures in their response to Storm Arwen, which included poor communication with customers.

Jonathan Brearley, the chief executive of Ofgem, said that while the regulator recognised that companies faced challenging conditions in the aftermath of the storm, “it was unacceptable that nearly 4,000 homes in parts of England and Scotland were off power for over a week, often without accurate information as to when power would be restored”.

Ofgem has issued a raft of recommendations which include stress testing the capacity of customer call centres, and forcing power network and distributing firms to submit winter preparedness plans that prove they can properly support customers during power disruptions.

Brearley said that it was important to prepare for future disruption, given that the climate crisis was likely to increase the frequency of extreme weather events.

“Network companies need to do better, not just to prevent power disruptions, but to ensure that when power is off, they work smarter to get people back on power quicker, and keep customers informed with accurate and timely information. This is the very least customers should be able to expect,” Brearley said.


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