- Distribution Network
- Transmission Network
Following Storm Arwen in November last year when nearly a million homes lost power, Ofgem announced that CEO Jonathan Brearley had ordered a review into the networks’ response as well as securing agreement from network companies to remove the limit for compensation for those affected by the storm. An interim report has been published today.
Based on the review to date, amongst the issues that will be further explored are:
- Companies’ investment in network resilience – data shows that companies are on track to make the investment in network resilience they committed to for the price control period 2015 to 2023; however, we need to explore further how that spend has been targeted and what improvements were made to network resilience as a result.
- Communications with customers – It is clear that some customers experienced difficulties and delays contacting their distribution network operator (DNO) in the aftermath of the storm. We will be looking into the availability of phonelines and whether customer enquiries were dealt with in a prompt and efficient manner in accordance with DNOs’ licence conditions.
- Deployment of generators – DNOs differed in their approaches to deploying generators to temporarily restore customers’ power supply. We will be further exploring the use of generators during storm events to agree best practice.
- Accuracy of estimates time of restoration – Customers’ experience of receiving accurate estimates of restoration varied. We will be exploring further if customers received an appropriate restoration time and how they were updated when the circumstances changed.
- Communication with priority service register customers - DNOs told us that they were proactive in contacting priority service register customers before and during the incident to provide information, advice, and support. We will look more closely at the provision of this in relation to DNOs’ licence obligations.
- Speed of compensation payments – All DNOs advised that they have made good progress with paying compensation to customers for whom they had records (advising that most were paid in December). However, it is taking considerably longer to identify and make payments to customers for whom DNOs do not hold records. We will be exploring causes of this and any improvements that should be made.
- Review of the compensation cap –We will be examining the compensation cap arrangements and whether they need to be amended for future potential storm events as they were for Storm Arwen, allowing customers to claim compensation for every day that they were off power beyond 48hours.
- Roles and responsibilities of DNOs in severe weather - We will work with the industry and wider stakeholders to establish clearer roles and responsibilities for the DNOs in supporting vulnerable customers during power outages, and their role in providing welfare support to the affected customers in severe weather situations.
Looking ahead to the publication of the final report in the spring, we have engaged with a wide range of affected customers and stakeholders, and we will be undertaking further analysis to establish clear lessons for improvement, including a programme of consumer research exploring the experiences of customers that endured a prolonged outage.
Ofgem CEO Jonathan Brearley said: "Storm Arwen was severe and would, inevitably, have a big impact on the networks affected. However, it is not acceptable that around 3,000 customers were off supply for over a week and, in many cases with poor communication and inadequate support.
"There are significant lessons to be learned for the industry and those involved in the wider response and that is where the next stage of our review will be focussed. Equally, if we find that network companies have not met their obligations, we will take enforcement action.
"Extreme weather events are not uncommon in winter, and with climate change the frequency of these is only set to increase. It is really important that industry and those involved more widely learn the necessary lessons to better respond. This means quickly getting people back on power and keeping customers fully updated throughout."