LONDON, March 6 British energy regulator Ofgem
has launched an investigation into local power grid operators
Scottish and Southern Energy and UK Power Networks over
their poor performance during blackouts caused by storms last
Two million Britons were left without electricity over
Christmas, some of them for days, after severe storms caused
extensive damage to electricity cables and power transfer
An Ofgem review of the incidents showed on Thursday that SSE
and UK Power Networks, partly owned by Hong Kong's Cheung Kong
Group, performed much worse than their competitors in
trying to restore supply to their customers.
"We are very concerned with the variations in the effect of
the storms on customers in different areas," Hanna Dixon, senior
partner for distribution at Ofgem, said in a statement.
If the investigation shows THAT the companies have breached
their licence conditions, Ofgem could impose a financial
penalty, the regulator said, without giving details.
The investigation is expected to end in July.
"We are confident that, once the impact of the storm on our
service area is taken into account, our performance over
Christmas will stand up well to scrutiny," said UK Power
Networks Chief Executive Basil Scarsella.
He admitted shortly after the storms that his company's
response to the crisis had been too slow, blaming staff
SSE restored power to over 97 percent of its customers
within two days but was "not complacent" about its performance
and was looking at ways to improve communication with customers,
said Mark Mathieson, the firm's managing director of networks.
Ofgem said that more than 500 SSE and UK Power Networks
customers were still without power supply after five days and
that one in five of the customers calling their help lines hung
up before speaking to an adviser, suggesting they had been
placed on hold for too long.
Ofgem's report showed that power companies were bracing to
make compensation payments. Around 26,000 customers across
Britain may be entitled to a share of 2 million pounds ($3.35
million) in compensation claims, 67 percent of which is expected
to be paid by SSE, the report said.
UK Power Networks and SSE have already promised to increase
compensation payments to their customers.
December 2013 was Britain's most stormy December on record,
with three separate storms causing most of the damage on power