Big Six utility chiefs agree to ‘nuclear solution’ to winter power disruptions

Energy UKLessons have been learned from this winter’s power disruptions, which affected more than 750,000 homes across the UK, said Energy Minister Ed Davey yesterday after meeting with managing directors and chief executives of the Big Six utilities, who included: –

 

  • Robert Symons, Western Power Distribution
  • Frank Mitchell, Scottish Power Energy Networks,
  • Basil Scarsella, UK Power Networks
  • Mark Mathieson, Scottish and Southern Energy Networks
  • Phil Jones, Northern Powergrid
  • Steve Johnson, Electricity North West
  • Andrew Wright, Interim chief executive, Ofgem,
  • Chris Train, Chairman, Energy Emergencies Executive Committee, and
  • David Smith, Energy Networks Association

 

The meeting, also involving Distribution Network Operators, Ofgem, the Energy Networks Association, Energy Emergencies Executive, and the Department for Energy and Climate Change, agreed to review the causes of the disruptions – which resulted in misery for thousands of passengers at Gatwick airport, among others – and to produce a report within two months for the Energy Minister.

The review will focus on measures such as communications with household energy customers, necessary resources to be able to cope with widespread disruption, and the compensation process. There was also agreement to investigate as quickly as possible the setting up of an emergency telephone number which households can call if they experience a power cut – all predictable scenarios which (apart from compensation) are regularly rehearsed by nuclear power station operators in England and Scotland and with central and local government.

The Minister later commented: “Clearly, communications with customers must be at the heart of this review as in some cases households were not kept informed of what was being done to help them or when they were likely to be reconnected.

“In particular, people need to know how to contact the network operator in their region if there is a power cut, and we’re looking to introduce a single emergency number which people can call irrespective of where they live.

“It’s virtually unprecedented for storms to affect such a huge area of the UK for so long, and this prevented network operators helping their colleagues in other regions as would normally happen. So the review will also look at the contingency plans and levels of resources required so that operators can be prepared for the worst should an event like this ever happen again.

“Network operators have agreed to proactively contact customers who may be entitled to compensation. I’m pleased to see that in many cases the companies are offering more than the regulations require them to, but it’s important that those people who are owed compensation are properly informed.”

The review into power disruptions will feed into a wider review of severe weather response and resilience being led by Defra and the Cabinet Office.

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