Households in northern England and Scotland will be able to claim up to £140 for every day they have been left without power since Storm Arwen caused “catastrophic damage” to the electricity network, after the energy industry regulator scrapped the cap on compensation payouts.
The promise of extra financial help for thousands of homes still without electricity a week after the storm, came shortly after the army deployed 100 forces staff, based in Weardale in County Durham and in police stations in Ellon, Turriff, Inverurie and Banchory in Scotland to help local people.
The energy regulator, Ofgem, said although more than a million people have had their power restored, 10,500 people were still without electricity in some parts of Scotland and the north of England on Friday afternoon after more than a week without power.
About 130 troops have been sent to carry out door-to-door checks and offer welfare support in the north-east of Scotland, where 1,600 Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) customers remained off supply at 7am on Friday.
Jonathan Brearley, the chief executive of Ofgem, said: “We understand this is a really worrying time for people who are without heat and power as the severity of Storm Arwen has hit homes and businesses in the north of England and Scotland.
“The absolute priority remains getting people back on power as quickly as possible, but for those who have not had power because of Storm Arwen, there are ways for customers to claim compensation by contacting their network company,” Brearley added.
Typically households left without electricity are allowed to claim £140 a day in compensation from their local energy network company for up to five days. The regulator has called on the companies to scrap the £700 limit as scrutiny of the network companies begins to grow.
Jim Savege, the chief executive of Aberdeenshire council, said SSEN told him it hoped to get the number of customers off power down to 1,000 on Friday, though some may not be reconnected until the weekend.
The regulator has also warned electricity network companies that they could face action if they are found to have fallen short of the “strict rules” for managing a power outage crisis.
An industry review is expected to begin on Monday to look into the company’s resilience measures and how they have communicated with customers following the storm. Ofgem said the review would establish the facts before deciding whether to take action against the companies.
“We have strict rules on how network companies need to operate in these circumstances, and we will take action if needed,” Brearley added. “I’ve launched an urgent review to see if there are things that the industry could learn from this response in order to improve our support to consumers in the future.”
SSEN said power had been restored to more than 129,000 customers since Storm Arwen first struck, causing what its managing director, Chris Burchell, described as “catastrophic damage to the electricity network”. The company said properties still without power were mainly located in rural and isolated communities, with Aberdeenshire the main area still affected.
The UK defence secretary, Ben Wallace, said: “We are always ready to provide extra support to civil authorities across the UK in their time of need and it’s great to see units based in Scotland supporting their local communities.
“Our dedicated armed forces will conduct door-to-door checks on people in their homes, providing essential support to those impacted by Storm Arwen.”