COMMONS

Power outages following extreme weather in Highlands & Islands explored

20 June 2013

The Scottish Affairs Committee is concerned about the long periods for which consumers were without power after heavy snowfall in March

In August of last year the House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee reported on shortcomings in the major power companies’ preparedness for bad weather events. It also expressed its concern that the compensation levels for power outages set by Ofgem were not adequately compensating consumers for the consequences of power cuts or providing adequate incentive to the power distributors to provide good quality service.

That report followed severe storms in Scotland in December 2011 and January 2012 which had caused damage to homes, road and rail infrastructure, as well as leaving tens of thousands of residents without a power supply. Although all of Scotland was affected, it appears that the most severe damage occurred in the Highlands and Islands. The storms left many residents and businesses without electricity for several days. Many residents in remote areas rely on the electricity supply for heating, lighting, cooking and communications, and many businesses were unable to function during the power cut and lost valuable stock and equipment.

Witnesses

Tuesday 25 June

At 2.30pm in Committee Room 6, Palace of Westminster

  • Jane Fowler, Head of Improvement and HR, Argyll and Bute Council

Alan Reid MP, the Committee Member leading this inquiry, said:

"Extreme weather is no rarity in Scotland and power companies and local authorities must be fully prepared for the adverse effects of severe weather on homes, businesses and emergency services.

In our report last summer we promised to monitor the energy companies’ progress on this important issue and by holding this follow up evidence session now we intend to make good on that promise, to hold the power companies to account on behalf of Scottish electricity consumers.

In the snowfall in March of this year, the three areas worst affected were Kintyre, Arran and Wigtownshire, areas covered by two separate power companies, SSE and Scottish Power. However one of the major problems this time was the inability of Argyll & Bute Council to re-open the A83, which prevented SSE engineers getting to those parts of Kintyre which had lost power.

In this follow up we’d like to question the power companies, the local authorities and the mobile phone operators association. The power companies will be asked what they can do to strengthen their network and improve their reactions when disaster does strike. From the Local Authorities, we expect questions to be answered about their preparedness in keeping the roads open and looking after vulnerable people. The mobile phone operators will be asked what more they could do to make their networks more resilient in emergencies."

Further information

Image: iStockphoto

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