In the aftermath of the Christmas Day power cuts, electricity network companies face a £4 million compensation bill after half a million customers in the south of England were cut off due to high winds 2 days before the festive break.
Most were back on within a few hours, but tens of thousands remained without power on Christmas Day.
UK Power Networks reported more than 300,000 homes experienced power cuts across its networks. Southern Electric Power Distribution reported supply interruptions to 130,000 properties and Western Power Distribution 120,000 customers.
Basil Scarsella, chief executive of UKPN, admitted to the Mail on Sunday the response had not been as fast as it could have been, as many staff were on holiday. “We could and should have done more,” he said. “It’s difficult to justify saying the company has performed well when customers have been without power for five days but once we had an idea of how bad it was we were able to mobilise as many engineers and office staff as possible.”
Mark Mathieson, managing director of networks at SEPD, said he was “immensely proud” of the 500 staff who worked “with determination and dedication” over the festive period to restore supplies. The company “felt very prepared” for storms but “we cannot wave a magic wand when major weather events hit”, he said.
Ofgem partner Ian Marlee told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the regulator will be asking questions of electricity network businesses about their handling of the outages.
SEPD and UKPN are paying £75 to those who had no power on Christmas Day, which is more than the statutory minimum after 48 hrs with no power of £27. WPD had all power restored within that timescale.
The Energy and Climate Change Select Committee are planning an inquiry into the energy networks. The chairperson of the committee, Tim Yeo claimed the networks “can get away with murder and probably do”.