Companies to pay out extra £10.3m to communities affected by Storm Arwen

In a report, Ofgem said it was 'unacceptable' thousands of homes were left without power for over a week.

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Communities affected by Storm Arwen will receive an additional £10.3m in compensation from power companies after a report found it was “unacceptable” thousands of homes were left without power for over a week.

Storm Arwen caused chaos in November, cutting off electricity to more than 100,000 homes and thousands were left without running water.

A man died after being hit by a falling tree in Aberdeenshire, while two more fatalities were reported elsewhere in the UK during the storm. 

On Thursday, Ofgem published a full report into the response by distribution network companies during the devastating storm. 

It found emergency plans put in place were “not sufficient” to deal with the scale of the damage, and that customers were without power for an “unacceptable” amount of time. 

Customers received poor communication from their network and that compensation payments took too long, Ofgem said.

The report also found 28% of customers were told power would be restored to them within a day, which was not accurate. 

Following Storm Arwen, three distribution networks – NPg, SSEN and ENWL – paid almost £30m in direct compensation to affected customers. 

However, the companies have also agreed to pay a further £10.3m in voluntary redress payment, which will be distributed to affected communities through donations to vulnerability support charities and contributions to community funds. 

Ofgem has issued 20 recommendations to ensure customers get a better service when severe weather strikes and said progress will be tracked to ensure compliance by operators. 

Jonathan Brearley, chief executive of Ofgem, said: “Distribution network companies faced challenging conditions in the aftermath of Storm Arwen, and I pay tribute to the many colleagues in those companies who supported customers and worked to get them back on power as quickly as possible. 

“However, 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. 

“Network companies need to do better, not just to prevent power disruptions, but to ensure that when power is off, they work smarter to get people back on power quicker, and keep customers informed with accurate and timely information. This is the very least customers should be able to expect. 

“The frequency of extreme weather events is only set to increase so it is really important that industry, and those involved more widely, learn from Storm Arwen to better respond in future.” 

SSEN confirmed it would provide £3.5m of the £10.3m pledged to help communities affected by Storm Arwen, with £1.8m set to support community and personal resilience projects focused on vulnerable people, adding to a £500,000 Resilent Communities Fund will will be awarded in the summer.

The company added £1.2m will be allocated for additional network resilience investment, which will focus on enhanced protection of key circuits and contingency measures to help improve response times for future major storms.

SSEN director of operations, Mark Rough, said: “Storm Arwen presented an unprecedented challenge for our customers, communities and our operation, causing damage to our network far greater than we had seen before. 

“I’m very proud of the way our teams dealt with this challenge, often in extremely hostile conditions, but also recognise that customers would like us to do better still in restoring their supply more quickly. 

“We have already taken steps to improve our response through listening to our customers and will continue to implement any and all learnings for future events. The additional £3.5m in funding will support this aim, helping improve our operational response and support community members, particularly those most vulnerable, improve their own resilience.

“We will now work collaboratively with industry, community partners and policy makers to ensure the recommendations from today’s publications are appropriately reviewed, implemented and, where necessary, supported through the regulatory framework.”