The Government will launch a review of the UK power grid’s ability to weather storms, after Labour called for it to “take charge” in the wake of Storm Arwen.
Many communities across the north of England and north east of Scotland were left without power for more than a week after the storm hit. Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng described the delay in reconnecting the lights as “completely unacceptable”.
On Thursday, Mr Kwarteng launched a review into the resilience of the electricity network across Britain.
The move comes after the opposition called on the Government to “take charge and carry out a full review”, alongside one that has already been promised by the energy regulator Ofgem.
Northern MPs have repeatedly raised concerns about the response time from both energy companies and the Government in the aftermath of the storm.
Mr Kwarteng said: “I’m extremely grateful to the thousands of engineers, volunteers, armed forces personnel and emergency responders who worked tirelessly to get nearly one million people reconnected to power.
“They did so with unbelievable professionalism in the face of one of the most extreme weather events in recent years.”
He added: “While I’m pleased all affected customers are now back online, it is completely unacceptable so many were left without power for so long.
“There is an urgent need to identify and resolve a number of issues which came to light during the Storm Arwen response, and the review I’ve commissioned, alongside Ofgem’s, will ensure any failings are addressed.”
In the Commons, the shadow environment secretary, Jim McMahon, pressed the Government on its response to Storm Arwen, arguing that while ministers were “defending a dodgy Christmas party”, people in the north of England “couldn’t even turn on the Christmas lights”.
Mr McMahon said: “Let’s be absolutely clear: This was a national emergency but Cobra wasn’t called. The Prime Minister was missing in action and now we discover the Secretary of State himself was missing in action.
“Instead of supporting those communities, the Government frankly was bogged down here in London, defending a dodgy Christmas party while hardworking people in the north of England couldn’t even turn on the Christmas lights.”
He claimed that while Ofgem had announced a “narrow review” into the response of power networks, the Government should carry out a full review, including into the “Government’s own response”.
Earlier this week the Business Secretary wrote to energy companies setting out expectations for them to deliver compensation to affected customers without delay.
Ofgem has also announced that the £700 limit on compensation has been removed, allowing customers to be compensated up to £140 a day for every day without power after the first 48 hours.
The Government review of the energy network is expected to be published on March 31, 2022.
David Smith, chief executive of Energy Networks Association, which represents the UK and Ireland’s energy networks businesses, said: “We welcome and fully support the reviews announced by Ofgem and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
“It’s important that we learn from Storm Arwen, particularly as the intensity and frequency of storms increases with climate change.”