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Friday, January 21, 2022

Storm Barra: Northern Powergrid aims to reconnect final homes


The energy firm for the north-east of England says it hopes to restore power to homes which have been cut off for 10 days before a storm on Tuesday.

Northern Powergrid said 1,300 homes are still without power after Storm Arwen’s 98mph winds caused widespread damage on 26 November.

The firm aims to complete repairs by Tuesday, when Storm Barra will bring yellow warnings for wind and snow.

A spokeswoman apologised for the “difficulty and disruption”.

‘Additional damage’

She said work on Sunday had been hit by poor weather but 2,300 homes across County Durham and Northumberland had power restored on Saturday.

In Cumbria, Electricity North West said “nobody was without power” overnight on Sunday, while in Scotland, Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks said power had been restored to all 135,000 of its affected customers by Sunday evening.

“We remain hopeful that the work we have in front of us will be completed on Monday or Tuesday,” Northern Powergrid’s spokeswoman said, adding: “This progress is dependent on us getting some decent weather, not uncovering significant amounts of additional damage on our network and the ongoing fantastic support we are getting from other companies around the country.”

Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said the performance of power firms before and during the outages would be reviewed

The power company also stated that new outages in the area around Rothbury, Northumberland, on Sunday were not a result of Storm Arwen damage and were quickly resolved, adding, “It’s not uncommon for power outages to occur in blizzards, and we had teams in the area ready and able to respond quickly.”

After Storm Arwen knocked down trees and power lines, more than 240,000 homes in the North East were left without power. Around 300 generators have been installed, as well as major repairs to overhead networks.

“The teams in these areas completed in one week a major overhead line construction project that would normally take many weeks, and they did so in extremely challenging conditions,” the spokeswoman said.

“We understand how difficult it is for our customers who are still without power at this time,” she said, adding, “and we’re very sorry for the difficulty and disruption this storm has caused to their lives and the network that powers their communities.”

Northern Powergrid has been using helicopters to identify problem areas and carry electricity poles

Electricity North West’s Paul Bircham stated that the only properties left without power in Cumbria were empty holiday homes, and that discussions with owners were ongoing to arrange access to reconnect them.

“Nobody was without power overnight,” he told BBC Radio Cumbria.

Customers may experience brief outages in the coming days as power is restored from generators to the main grid, according to Mr Bircham.

He blamed the lengthy outages on the “massive amount of rebuilding work” required in the aftermath of Storm Arwen, adding, “We have had over 900 incidents of damage, many of them extremely severe.”

Mr Bircham stated that “whole stretches” of line had to be removed, trees had to be cleared, poles had to be replanted, and lines had to be re-strung and tensioned.

Electricity North West said the number of trees felled by Storm Arwen was highly unusual

“The amount of tree fall caused by the wind was highly unusual,” Mr Bircham said, adding that “that was one of the main reasons for the significant amount of damage to the network.”

He stated that trees were being cut away from power lines “wherever possible,” but that this had to be negotiated with landowners.

Mr Bircham expressed “deep disappointment” at the length of the power outages, adding, “We are deeply sorry.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said on the 11th day of the outages that the government needed to “put pressure on those power companies.”

He stated that the main message should be “let’s get the power back on,” and expressed concern that it was “only December,” with more cold, wet, and potentially stormy winter months ahead.

The Army and Royal Marines were deployed in County Durham and Northumberland to help those hit by power cuts

On a visit to County Durham on Sunday, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said the lengthy outages were “totally unacceptable” and the performance of power firms before and during the cuts would be reviewed, with enforcement action available if failures were found.

A £700 compensation cap has been lifted, allowing all those affected to claim £70 for each 12-hour period of power outage – after an initial £70 for the first 48 hours.

Storm Barra, the season’s second named storm, is expected to bring wind and snow to the UK mainland on Tuesday morning, according to the Met Office.

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