Northern Powergrid told to ‘up their game’ following Ofgem report into the aftermath of Storm Arwen

Electricity firms have been told to “up their game” following a critical report by the energy regulator Ofgem into their response to Storm Arwen.

By Neil Fatkin
Thursday, 9th June 2022, 10:59 am

One of the three energy companies identified as providing an “unacceptable service” in their response to the storm was Northern Powergrid which distributes electricity to the North East and Yorkshire.

The storm saw winds approaching 100mph batter the region causing widespread damage and destruction.

The conditions left more than 100 properties on South Tyneside without power, with 400 reports of individual sites with damage to trees. Almost 1,000 calls were made to South Tyneside Council’s out of hours service in the days after Storm Arwen battered the borough.

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Praise for South Tyneside response to Storm Arwen after more than 100 homes left...

Speaking in the aftermath of the storm, South Tyneside Council leader, Cllr Tracey Dixon said: “Properties and vehicles were damaged, trees uprooted and a number of our residents and businesses were left without power.

“Council will note the exceptionally high number of reports that were required in the response and thanks to some pre-planning, key services were able to mobilise immediately, prioritising responses on a risk-based priority approach.

“This ensured, as far as possible, that our key infrastructure was largely able to remain open, risks from fallen or damaged trees were actioned and necessary closures as a result of dangerous or seriously damaged structures were implemented.”

Extensive damage to South Shields and Westoe Club caused by Storm Arwen. Picture by Duncan Murray.

Nationally almost one million homes were left without power, including large parts of the North East. Some homes in Northumberland and rural parts of County Durham ended up being cut off for more than a week, with the report identifying poor communication about when they would be reconnected and slow compensation payments.

Three network operators – Northern Powergrid, Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks and Electricity North West – have paid nearly £30 million in compensation and have also agreed to pay another £10.3 million in “redress payments” to local communities.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme following the six month review, Ofgem chief executive Jonathan Brearley said: “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.

“The main message to all the network companies is up your game and get ready for winter.

An uprooted tree at Marsden Lane in South Shields. Picture: Electrolaze Electricians.

“This is a really tough time for customers right now; this is a market where everybody is having a difficult time.

“Every energy company that’s working in this country needs to be working on behalf of their customers and that means big changes for the networks.”

Findings published in the report included Northern Powergrid did not directly contact vulnerable customers enrolled on its Priority Services Register prior to Storm Arwen, which should have been carried out as part of its winter preparedness campaign, and the company accepted the performance of its call centre fell below the standards it should have been able to meet during a severe storm, potentially breaching its licence.

The report also identified plans in place to deal with the storm were not sufficient to deal with the scale of the damage.