Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

Power to be restored to all homes

A local resident helps workmen clear water from her home in Yalding, Kent, after it was flooded during the recent bad weather.
A local resident helps workmen clear water from her home in Yalding, Kent, after it was flooded during the recent bad weather.
Clouds gather over flooded fields outside Deerhurst, Gloucestershire, where flood alerts remain in force after Christmas storms swept Britain.

Engineers are expected to restore power today to homes still cut off from electricity following the Christmas storms, the Energy Networks Association (ENA) has said.

Some 4,000 homes were without power across the south east of England, north Wales and Cumbria yesterday, but the number had fallen to just 130 this afternoon.

It comes as another band of persistent rain and heavy wind heads towards the UK, bringing the risk of further flood misery.

Forecasters have said the latest storm pushing in from the Atlantic will arrive in the west this evening before spreading north-eastwards overnight, causing Monday morning disruption.

The Met Office has issued a severe weather warning over fears of severe gales of up to 80mph affecting Wales and the south west and southern England.

It has also warned of the danger of ice patches in the south west tonight as temperatures drop to below freezing.

George Goodfellow, a forecaster for MeteoGroup, said: "Normally, we would say this is a typical winter storm but because we're still recovering from a string of other storms it is likely to cause more disruption and flooding."

He said the south west will continue to bear the brunt of the storm.

And the unsettled weather looks set to continue into the new year after the Met Office issued a severe weather warning for rain on New Year's Day, affecting southern England and western Scotland.

Some 1,300 properties have been flooded during the recent storms in England, the Environment Agency (EA) said.

The executive of one of the UK's biggest power distributors has admitted its efforts to restore power to thousands of people should have been better.

Basil Scarsella, chief executive of the UK Power Networks, told The Mail on Sunday it was not prepared for the storm and too many staff were on holiday.

The company, which owns electricity lines and cables in London, the south east and east of England, said it will increase payments for 48 to 60-hour outages from £27 to £75 for those affected on Christmas Day as "a gesture of goodwill".

Additional payments will be made to customers who have been without electricity for longer than that time - up to a maximum of £432.

Mr Scarsella said: "We could not have avoided the damage caused by the storm but we could have responded to it better.

"A lot of our employees had gone away for holidays so it meant we had a level of depletion in our resources - and that caused problems with getting people's power restored.

"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."

In a statement, regulator Ofgem reminded energy companies they are obliged to get power back on as soon as possible.

"These obligations are backed by strong regulatory incentives put in place by Ofgem on the companies to maintain service levels and restore supplies, these include loss of revenues and awarding compensation payments to customers off supply," it said.

"There are also well established industry processes in place in event of severe weather and loss of supplies to share engineering resources and expertise across the network to help with supply restoration in the areas affected.

"The priority for the energy companies is to reconnect remaining customers and we are monitoring progress with this. In due course it will also be necessary to review events and ensure any further lessons that need to be are learnt."

The EA has warned the predicted rainfall meant there is a "continued heightened flood risk" across southern England, especially south west England where river levels remain high and the ground is already saturated.

Large rivers such as the Thames, Severn and Great Ouse in Cambridgeshire are most at risk of flooding, while high water levels on the River Medway and Stour in Kent will cause continued flooding and travel disruption, the EA said.

Some 69 flood alerts and six more serious flood warnings remain in place across the country.

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