A new report into the disruptive impact of Storm Arwen on the electricity supply may prompt an increase in the recruitment of electricians, as energy firms deal with the reality that the problems caused will become increasingly commonplace.
Ofgem has published details of its findings after the storm, which struck in November 2021, caused one million homes across Britain to lose power.
Worse still, nearly 4,000 homes had to survive without power in “appalling conditions” for more than a week, the report notes.
The response of Ofgem was to commission a six month review to establish why things went so badly wrong and recommend how energy firms can equip themselves to cope with future severe weather events to ensure members of the public are not similarly exposed in future storms.
Increasing the capacity of power firms to handle such extreme weather events could include more recruitment to raise the number of electricians who can help reconnect power supplies, making it a wise career choice for people to take electrician courses.
Several issues were covered by the report, ranging from the question of whether outages could have been prevented and the speed at which services were restored to the standard of information provided to customers and the level of support given afterwards, including compensation.
The key operational issues concern the first of these two matters. The conclusions of the report were that the emergency plans instituted by some suppliers “were not sufficient to deal with the scale of damage that resulted from Storm Arwen,” while some of those affected “remained off power for an unacceptable amount of time”.
Other findings included a correlation between the age of poles and the damage they suffered, as well as an observation that the majority of power cuts were caused by falling branches.
That may indicate that recruiting more electricians to tackle problems and restore power is not the only part of the solution, as better management of the surrounding vegetation is also needed. Nonetheless, the report stated that power firms should submit winter preparedness plans to Ofgem to demonstrate they have better measures in place to support customers in such situations.
Employing more electricians to deal with emergency situations of this type may be a lot more cost-effective than paying out large amounts of compensation. Ofgem noted that after storm Arwen, firms paid £30 million in direct compensation and another £10.3 million in voluntary redress to those worst affected.
Speaking about the findings, Ofgem chief executive Jonathan Brearley said: “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.”
He added an increased level of preparedness and resilience is crucial because climate change means the “frequency of extreme weather events is only set to increase”.
Arwen was the first of seven named storms to batter the UK over the autumn and winter 2021-22 period. It was followed by Barra in December, with Malik and Corrie arriving in quick succession in late January.
The middle of February saw a triple whammy as storms Dudley, Eunice and Franklin struck within the space of five days.