CUSTOMER research suggests that nearly 50 per cent of householders feel unprepared for a power cut, and many wouldn’t know who to contact to report a loss of power.
This in part is because power cuts are far less frequent now, but it also shows our industry needs to continue working hard to ensure people have the necessary information.
At SP Energy Networks, we supply electricity to 3.5 million customers, covering some of the most weather-exposed geography in Britain. We have invested to make our network more resilient to severe weather, which has been tested over the last few weeks as the extreme weather across the UK has affected, in particular, the communities we serve in north Wales and southern Scotland.
We fully understand that our customers rely on us even more during the festive period and given the challenging weather forecasts, we had a plan to deploy more than 800 frontline staff to respond to any problems.
This proved to be effective. Supply to all customers was restored on Christmas Eve, following a storm earlier that day. Then late on Boxing Day, we experienced a severe storm in north Wales and southern Scotland, with wind speeds in excess of 110mph. Although the storm lasted for 18 hours, we reconnected 95 per cent of affected customers during this period and 99 per cent in 42 hours.
When we compare the impact of recent storms to the Boxing Day storm of 1998, which affected power supplies to a quarter of a million homes, we can see considerable improvement. Although half of the homes affected in 1998 were reconnected in 24 hours, it took eight days to bring everyone back on supply. We resolved to make sure this would never happen again.
Significant investment in modernising our network, increased maintenance and greater automation, has reduced power cuts in these storms and reconnect customers much quicker.
Small steps can help you stay safe and informed if you experience a power cut. Always report any loss of power. If you have seen or heard something, this information could be critical in getting supplies back on quickly. Please keep our contact number to hand – 0845 2727999. We operate a 24/7 response service all year.
• Frank Mitchell is chief executive of SP Energy Networks