Trade and Industry Press Notice 84

Session 2002-03  23 July 2003

Press Notice 84


The Trade and Industry Committee announced today that it will undertake an inquiry into the effectiveness of the contingency plans that electricity supply companies have developed for dealing with power cuts and the implementation of those plans.

The severe storms over England and Wales on 27th October 2002 caused widespread damage to the electricity distribution network. Two million customers were affected by power cuts, and the most severely affected customer was without an electricity supply for nine days. Energy engineering consultants British Power International (BPI) were commissioned by the Department of Trade and Industry to review the performance of  electricity supply companies in restoring power to their customers. The review, published by the DTI on 19th December 2002, drew attention to the differences between the best and poor performers in a number of key elements of the implementation of their contingency plans, including their response to severe weather warnings; use of resources; communications with their customers and the media; the performance of their information management systems; and routine maintenance activities which would have reduced the risk of damage to power cables.

The BPI report made a number of recommendations for the improvement of performance, including:

- the development and regular testing of adequate emergency plans;

- the testing of telephone response and answering services and the development of contingency plans to cope with system failure;

- the development of predictive tools to forecast likely network damage in cases of severe weather and the consequent demand on resources; 

- better network maintenance; and

- better and more open customer communications.

The Committee intends to assess the progress made by the electricity supply companies in addressing the issues identified by BPI. It will also review the arrangements for the payment of compensation to customers affected by power failures and the progress made by Ofgem in processing the compensation claims arising from the October storms.     

Written evidence

The Committee invites written evidence which should be submitted by Friday  29th August.  If possible, evidence should take the form of a memorandum with numbered paragraphs and should be submitted, as a MS Word document, by e-mail to with a single hard copy sent to the Clerk at the address above.

Oral evidence

The Committee intends to take oral evidence on Tuesday 16th September.  Details will be announced in a separate Press Notice as soon as possible.

For further information please contact the Committee Office on 020 7215 5777/5779.