Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by South Western Electricity plc

  Between Christmas and the New Year period we had a total of 19,000 customers who experienced a loss of supply as a result of severe weather conditions. Over 95 per cent of these customers were restored within three hours and no customers were off supply for more than 24 hours. We received a small number of claims for compensation, and, although these claims were outside the guidelines of OFFER's standards which only apply when a customer is off supply for more than 24 hours, each claim was treated sympathetically.

  You may also be interested in the following information on our performance during severe weather at the start of 1998, which is perhaps closer to that experienced by NIE last Christmas. On this occasion SWEB had over 110,000 customers off supply (about 10 per cent of our customer base) covering an area of 14,400 sq km (NIE is about 14,100 sq km). Winds of over 100 mph were recorded and lightning was present for 50 per cent of the time. This hampers restoration as it is not safe to work on the network in these conditions.

  A summary is as follows:
Number of customers affected110,000
Number of systems faults6,218
Restored within 3 hours68.36 per cent
Restored within 6 hours84.46 per cent
Restored within 12 hours94.44 per cent
Restored within 24 hours98.02 per cent
Restored within 48 hours99.2 per cent

  All customers were restored within 72 hours.

  With regard to compensation claims from customers, we adopted a proactive approach and issued the attached news release. It encouraged customers who believed they had suffered an undue loss to contact SWEB to have their claim considered. Each claim was treated sympathetically on its merits and we dealt with 2,900 claims relating to the storm.

  Although this approach led to a higher cost per claim than paying out standard sums, we believe that it was an appropriate way to compensate customers in these extraordinary conditions. This method was supported by the Consumers Committee, local OFFER and many politicians.

10 March 1999


  SWEB announced today that it will give sympathetic consideration to those who suffered an undue loss from storms that battered the West Country on Sunday, 4 January. Customers who were still off supply as of 7.00 am on Tuesday, 6 January are invited to submit a letter detailing their loss by 30 January.

  "While we could have sought a total severe weather exemption, we have made this unprecedented offer in the interest of customer satisfaction," said Derek Lickorish, Director of Customer Service and External Affairs. In explaining the Tuesday, 6 January time frame, Lickorish said that, "Extremely hazardous, and in many cases life threatening conditions—with the presence of dangerous lightning and high winds—prevented our crews from conducting the extensive repair work that was needed until first light on Monday."

  "While we were able to restore approximately 60 per cent of customers who had lost supply on Sunday night by re-routing our high-voltage circuits, through extensive fuse replacement and switching, the more time consuming work such as replacing snapped poles and damaged conductors could not begin until Monday morning," Lickorish said.

  Customers who feel they have suffered an undue loss and wish to have their claim considered, may write to SWEB at the following address: Storm Claims; SWEB Sowton Office; Osprey Road, Exeter, Devon EX2 7HZ.

9 January 1998

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