UK Government sets out to improve Great Britain’s electricity networks

The UK government announced a series of initiatives today (9 June 2022) to increase the resilience of the country’s power networks in the face of future catastrophic weather events.
This comes after a thorough government investigation of the industry’s response to Storm Arwen, and it will help customers by establishing action deadlines for operators.
Storm Arwen hit the UK in November 2021, knocking out electricity to about one million households, with nearly 75,000 of them losing power for more than 48 hours and over 3,700 for more than a week.
As the government stated at the time, thousands of homes were left without power for an extended period of time, which is why the Business and Energy Secretary ordered a review of how network operators responded to the Storm in order to identify lessons learned and ensure suppliers step up to prevent similar problems from occurring again.
Measures to increase the energy system’s resilience to future storms and upgrades to ensure customers receive compensation payments quickly are among the review’s recommendations, with network operators given timelines to make the adjustments.
Kwasi Kwarteng, the Minister of Business and Energy, said:
Storm Arwen was one of the most severe weather events in decades, and I’m grateful to all of the engineers, military personnel, and volunteers who worked around the clock to restore power to those who were without it.
Thousands of customers, however, have clearly been let down by power network firms, which is why I began this investigation to discover and fix any shortcomings.
This action plan will improve future storm preparedness while also increasing the security of our electrical infrastructure and protecting families.
North East England and Scotland were the hardest hit, with both the Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng and Energy Minister Greg Hands visiting local areas to see what was being done on the ground to get people back on the grid.
The evaluation was a collaborative effort between the government, industry, and Ofgem, with the energy regulator releasing its own assessment on the Storm Arwen response today, examining how each network operator performed in relation to their legal requirements.
Thousands of consumers were provided with inadequate service, according to Ofgem’s review, despite front-line staff’s hard work in difficult circumstances. Following Ofgem’s investigation, network operators have agreed to pay a further £10 million in reparation payments to affected communities, totaling over £34 million in direct compensation.
The Government’s Final Report recommends actions in all three areas of the assessment – System Resilience, Consumer Protection, and Additional Support – with the Secretary of State for Business and Energy establishing timeframes for the next steps to be taken.
Existing network standards did not provide appropriate resilience to Storm Arwen’s exceptional northerly winds, according to the analysis.
In contrast to the current standards, which are exclusively specified as measures to be applied, a new “outcomes-focused physical resilience standard” will be developed, which would describe resilience requirements in terms of consumer outcomes.
Each Distribution Network Operator (DNO) has been instructed to examine their severe weather escalation plans to ensure that all relevant elements affecting the scale of damage, such as wind direction, are taken into account.
The government will revise industry best practices to ensure network operators can swiftly identify problems and securely assess the extent of network damage early in a storm, with a focus on smart meter data and technology.
Customer communication was a major concern for those affected, as customers received terrible service while attempting to contact their network operator. All of the impacted DNOs had a high number of abandoned calls and long wait times, according to the investigation.
DNOs have been given orders to guarantee that communication networks are enough to satisfy demand, as well as to implement telephone systems and websites that can handle increased traffic during a storm. This includes assessing any additional resourcing or processes, such as employing more people and sharing call handlers amongst organizations, to avoid call centers becoming overburdened.
Compensation: The compensation payment system will be altered so that clients are more aware of their rights and compensation is given out more quickly.
Despite the fact that approximately 90% of individuals affected got compensation payments by January 24, 2022, the assessment advises that DNOs build more strong payment procedures in response to the Business Secretary’s appeal for consumers to receive payouts as soon as possible.
This will allow them to distribute payments at scale while also continuing to develop customer accounts that allow customers to update their contact information directly with their DNOs, allowing compensation to be paid more quickly.
The Energy Networks Association will take the lead in promoting the right to compensation in the event of a power outage.
The energy regulator, Ofgem, will commission a study of the compensation payment structure, with the goal of determining whether a compensation cap is still appropriate, establishing alternative systems, and ensuring the accuracy of consumer data.
The findings of this study will be used to strengthen the system’s resilience, building on prior work and investment from both the government and industry to ensure a better outcome for consumers.