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, 11:56 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.

In Hartlepool the storm saw residents at De Bruce Court Care Home having to be temporarily moved to other care providers after a section of roof blew off.

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Crimdon Dene Caravan Park was also closed following what park bosses labelled as an “unprecedented and challenging situation over the weekend” as caravans were turned over by the storm force winds.

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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.

Damage outside the Tall Ships pub following high winds brought by Storm Arwen.

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.

“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.”

A fallen tree at the top of Reed Street. Picture: Patrick Liddell.

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.