Energy companies face deepening scrutiny over their response to Storm Arwen after the government opened an investigation into their handling of the crisis which left almost a million homes without power for up to 12 days.
The government’s review into the “unacceptable” power outages which followed the storm, aims to identify any issues with the resilience of the electricity network companies worst affected, and how they communicated with households in the wake of the outages.
The electricity network companies, which operate as regional monopolies funded by home energy bills, already face a review by the industry regulator, Ofgem, which warned that it was prepared to take action against any company that breached rules in their response to the storm.
Storm Arwen caused the most severe disruption to power supplies since 2005 due to winds of up to 100mph combined with rain, snow, and ice. It left almost a million households without power across the north of England and parts of Scotland, thousands of which were still without electricity over a week later.
The business and energy secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, said: “While I’m pleased all affected customers are now back online, it is completely unacceptable so many were left without power for so long.”
“There is an urgent need to identify and resolve a number of issues which came to light during the Storm Arwen response, and the review I’ve commissioned, alongside Ofgem’s, will ensure any failings are addressed,” he said.
Kwarteng wrote earlier this week to the bosses of five energy network companies affected by storm – Electricity North West, Northern Powergrid, SP Energy Networks, SSE and Western Power Distribution – to warn against any delay in paying compensation to households affected by the “simply unacceptable” outages.
The double investigations are likely to pile political pressure on the companies, which have faced criticism in the past for making large profits while claiming up to a quarter of home energy bills to cover the costs of running their networks.
David Smith, the chief executive of the Energy Networks Association, which represents energy networks businesses, said it would fully support the reviews announced by Ofgem and the government.
“It’s important that we learn from Storm Arwen, particularly as the intensity and frequency of storms increases with climate change,” Smith said.