Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Second Report


  72. We note that, even after the performance improvements which NIE has put in hand, the company maintains[104] that it will have to be accepted that:

      ·  outside the urban centres there will continue to be a very large number of customers served by rural overhead lines, which will remain very extensive right across Northern Ireland;

      ·  these overhead line networks will continue to be vulnerable to damage in hurricane conditions such as experienced on Boxing Day 1998, leading to loss of supply potentially to very large numbers of customers;

      ·  in the first 36 hours after such hurricane damage, the best information that NIE expects to be able to make available is that there is widespread damage to overhead line networks, that the process of damage assessment will take time and that it will not be possible in consequence, in the early stages, to make accurate estimates of restoration times for individual customers;

      ·  typically 80-90 per cent of customers will be reconnected within the first 36 hours,[105] but there will be some customers who will inevitably remain off-supply for 4-6 days before they are reached in the restoration process, and customers need to plan individually on the most pessimistic assumption;

      ·  in the case of very large numbers of customers off-supply, communications networks and NIE's call-handling capability will be heavily stressed, customers will continue to have great difficulty in getting through to customer service agents and very many customers will have to rely in the initial stages on automatic call-messaging and answering services and media broadcasts for information.

  73. Since we took evidence from NIE, OFFER has published its own report on the experience of Public Electricity Suppliers in Great Britain in responding to storms caused by the same weather system. We hope that NIE will study this report carefully and the recommendations that it makes, as many of these may also have potential application in Northern Ireland.

  74. We note that the Regulator plans to publish very shortly[106] a comprehensive a report on the lessons to be learned from the storm We look forward to receiving copies of this report in due course. We would also like NIE to let us have a comprehensive progress report at the time that the Government replies to this Report on the implementation of its plans, on some of which they have made interim announcements, to minimise the impact of future severe storms on the electricity distribution system in Northern Ireland. We would like that report to include a list of al l outstanding steps to be taken, with a firm timetable attached to each.

104  Ev. p.8 Back

105  According to the NIE storm report (p. 19, Table 10), in the period 26 to 31 December 1998, 89% of customers off-supply as a result of weather-related faults had their supplies restored within 36 hours. Back

106  Q86. Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries

© Parliamentary copyright 1999
Prepared 29 July 1999