Storm Arwen: Ofgem launches 'urgent' review into energy network companies’ response

ITV News Correspondent John Ray hears from the people who went a week without power - they say it wouldn't have happened if they lived in the South

Energy regulator Ofgem has launched an “urgent” review into the response of energy network companies to Storm Arwen, which has left some people without power for a week.

The regulator has also removed a £700 compensation cap for those who have been left without heating or electricity for days due to the storm.

Customers will now be able to claim up to £140 per day they are left without power, as thousands of households are still struggling in dark and freezing conditions a week after the storm first battered parts of the UK.

Hundreds of Army and Navy troops have been deployed to the hardest hit areas in the north-east of Scotland and the north-east of England, while there have been calls to bring in military personnel to assist engineers in Cumbria.

The storm - one of the worst to hit the UK in decades - saw winds of up to 100mph, heavy snow and sleet lead to the deaths of three people and numerous animals, while 10,500 households are still without power, said Ofgem.

Fallen masonry from a property damaged a car in Roker, Sunderland, following the storm Credit: PA

About 6,000 customers - down from around 240,000 - of Northern Powergrid, the electricity distribution network operator for the North East, Yorkshire and northern Lincolnshire, remained without supply at 11pm on Thursday.

In north-east Scotland, 130 troops have been sent to carry out door-to-door checks and offer welfare support, where 1,600 Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) customers were still struggling without power at 7am on Friday.

South of the border, Durham County Council on Thursday declared a major incident and said around 100 service personnel will be based in Weardale to help locals.

In Cumbria, 1,800 homes are still without power, according to Electricity North West.

A house covered in snow on the A53 close to Buxton, Derbyshire, amid freezing conditions in the aftermath of Storm Arwen Credit: PA

Regulator Ofgem has now launched a review into the handling of the crisis by energy network companies and said those affected by storm damage will be able to claim £70 for each 12-hour period they are left without power, after an initial £70 for the first 48 hours.

Jonathan Brearley, Ofgem’s chief executive 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.

“We accept the network companies have been working in challenging conditions, but until every home in Britain has power restored, that relentless effort must continue.”

He added: “We are launching a review into how the storm has been handled. We have strict rules on how network companies need to operate in these circumstances, and we will take action if needed.”

One supplier, Scottish Power Energy Networks, has said it will give a £150 refund to any households which lost power for more than two days because of the storm - such as those in the Scottish Borders - in addition to the statutory compensation.

"I'm confident the remaining power will be restored shortly," said Oliver Dowden

Earlier today, Oliver Dowden, chair of the Conservative Party, told ITV News on Friday morning 98% of power has now been restored.

Jim Savage, chief executive of Aberdeenshire Council, said the SSEN told him it hopes to get the number of customers without power down to 1,000 on Friday - though they predict there will still be people going into the weekend without electricity.

Properties still without power are mainly located in rural and isolated communities, with Aberdeenshire the main area still affected by what the SSEN described as “catastrophic damage to the electricity network”.

"There are a lot of vulnerable people in the community and I'm not exaggerating when I say it's life or death for some of them".

Residents in Nenthead, Cumbria, who have been without power since Friday, told ITV Border earlier this week that many are "feeling forgotten".

He told BBC Breakfast: “It’s been a really tough week for families and communities across all of Aberdeenshire.

"There has been an amazing effort of support from communities and emergency services here to make sure people are safe as we look to get the power back on as soon as we can.”

“SSEN have got many hundreds of their staff out on the ground and have been going through all of the lines they’ve got and fixing and repairing as they go, and in the meantime many other services are making sure the communities are safe, they’ve got what they need in terms of whatever food and heating and support and accommodation we can provide," he added.

Engineers have been working to repair damage Credit: SSEN/PA

Aberdeenshire Council said the Army will be based out of police stations in Ellon, Turiff, Inverurie and Banchory, with three teams of 10 at each.

Boris Johnson told ITV News on Thursday that teams are "working flat out" to resolve the issues.

"I want to say how desperate it must still be for people to be out of power for so long," the PM said.

Meanwhile, TalkTalk customers were still without internet in the area around Preston, with the company saying it was "experiencing a high volume of issues following the affects of storm Arwen hitting" the north west "particularly hard" and was working to restore services.

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.”