CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEAR ELECTRICITY SUPPLY
Memorandum on the Powers and Responsibilities
of the Electricity Regulator
The duties of the Director General of Electricity
Supply for Northern Ireland (DGES) are set out in the Electricity
(Northern Ireland) order 1992 and include:
ensuring that all reasonable demands
for electricity are satisfied;
ensuring that licensees can finance
their licensed activities; and
promoting competition in generation
In discharging these duties the DGES has a further
duty to exercise his functions in a manner which is best calculated
to protect the interests of consumers in respect of:
the prices charged and the other
terms of supply;
the continuity of supply; and
the quality of the electricity supply
In summary the Director's main aims are to promote
an efficient and competitive electricity industry in Northern
Ireland and to protect the interests of electricity consumers.
2. PROTECTING CONSUMERS
Standards of Performance
The Director General has set Standards of Performance
to encourage NIE to provide a high level of service to customers.
There are two sets of Standards:
Guaranteed Standards of Performance which
set service levels for a number of common activities including
restoration of supply and which must be met in each individual
case. If NIE fails to meet the prescribed Standard, then a payment
must be made to each individual customer affected. Details of
the Standards are shown in Annex 1.
(NB NIE is exempted from making payments where its default
on a Standard results from factors beyond its controlsuch
as severe weather).
Overall Standards of Performance which
provide targets for the performance of the company as a whole.
NIE is not obliged to make payments to affected customers, but
is required by law to conduct its business in such a way as can
reasonably be expected to lead to achievement of the Standards.
Details of the Standards are shown in Annex 2.
Codes of Practice
NIE is required by its Licence to publish and
make available Codes of Practice for customers. The Codes must
be approved by the Director. Revised Codes were approved by the
Director and launched in September 1998. The Codes are titled:
Using Electricity Efficiently in your Home
Using Electricity Efficiently in your Business
Services of the Elderly and People with Disabilities
Paying for your Electricity
Using your Powercard Meter; and
Tariff Customers in Default (issued to advice
The Director, through his Department Ofreg,
provides a complaints service for customers dissatisfied with
NIEs performance. Customers with an electricity problem should
first approach NIE, but if the matter is not dealt with to their
satisfaction they may refer it to Ofreg. Ofreg currently deals
with 200 plus complaints annually.
Capital Expenditure and Network Refurbishment
Most of the revenues of NIE's regulated business
are subject to price controls. The Transmission and Distribution
(T&D) business (which was the part most affected by the Boxing
Day storm) has a separate price control formula which lays down
the maximum revenue that NIE is permitted to raise from customers
for this part of the business. It is this revenue, agreed between
NIE and the Director and collected exclusively from customers,
which supports capital expenditure and asset replacement.
NIE is free to determine its capital expenditure
and asset replacement priorities within the budget allocated by
the price control.
3. THE CHRISTMAS
The Director General and Ofreg staff dealt with
over 1,000 calls from irate customers immediately after the Boxing
Day storm. Several members of staff cancelled leave to ensure
an optimum level of service was available. Customers welcomed
the opportunity to speak to someone about their difficulties,
as in many cases NIE's communications problems meant they had
been unable to make contact with the company, or were limited
to a recorded message. Ofreg staff took steps to ensure NIE were
aware that customers who had called were off-supply.
In addition to handling customer calls, Ofreg
staff were active in persuading NIE that meaningful good-will
payments to affected customers were essential. Payments were increased
as a result of this pressure and agreement was reached eventually
that no customer should be worse off financially than would have
been the case had the company not been exempt, as a result of
the severe weather, from the guaranteed Standard relating to restoration
Following the Christmas/New Year storms in 1997-98,
Ofreg staff met with NIE several times during the year to encourage
better performance in future. At a meeting on 12 November 1998,
NIE explained that a Trouble Management Process was in place to
deal with future emergencies. This Process clearly failed to cope
with the Boxing Day 1998 situation and the Director has asked
NIE for a full report explaining why this was so.
4. THE NORTHERN
In the immediate post-Boxing Day period the
NICCE was active through its Chairman and members in championing
customer concerns in the media and with NIE. The Committee plans
to pursue NIE to ensure its communications and infrastructure
are able to cope better with any future emergency. Further information
on NICCE is contained in Annex 3.
3 February 1999