Electricity should be restored to everyone before Christmas, vows minister

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng also said weather events like Storm Arwen could become more frequent due to climate change.

Tom Wilkinson
Wednesday 01 December 2021 14:33
The Government has promised to do all it can to restore power to remote homes before Christmas following Storm Arwen (Energy Networks Association/PA)
The Government has promised to do all it can to restore power to remote homes before Christmas following Storm Arwen (Energy Networks Association/PA)

The Business Secretary has promised to do everything possible to restore power to homes affected by Storm Arwen before Christmas.

Five days after what Kwasi Kwarteng said was a storm unlike any other in 60 years, 30,000 homes are still without electricity.

Speaking in the Commons on Wednesday, he said weather events like Arwen could become more frequent due to climate change.

The storm flattened tens of thousands of trees (Forestry England/PA)

On Friday night, winds reached almost 100mph in parts of northern England and Scotland, power lines were ripped down, tens of thousands of trees were uprooted and roads were blocked by debris.

On Wednesday, thousands of people in County Durham remained without power and Conservative MP Richard Holden said a rural surgery in his North West Durham constituency had lost £10,000 worth of flu vaccines when its fridges cut out.

In Parliament, Mr Holden said some living in remote communities have been warned it could be a “very long time” before their electricity supply is fully restored.

Mr Kwarteng replied: “Being without power until Christmas is simply unacceptable, I’ll say that publicly, and I’ll do everything I can to make sure that that doesn’t happen.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng in Downing Street (James Manning/PA)

“Clearly, Storm Arwen was an event the likes of which we haven’t seen for certainly 60 years since the record starts.

“We have to be prepared for similarly extreme, difficult weather conditions in the future.

“We have to make sure that our system is resilient in that eventuality.”

He said it was “unacceptable” that people were left waiting up to two hours to get through to a power cut emergency phone number over the weekend.

Liberal Democrat MP Tim Farron said “at least 7,000 homes” in his Westmorland and Lonsdale constituency have been without power for between three and five nights and feel “forgotten”.

Some have been told they will be without power for another week, and he urged the Government to send in the Army to help.

Mary Kelly Foy, Labour MP for Durham City, said the ongoing power outages are a “national scandal”.

Mr Kwarteng said: “We are working with the local resilience forums.

“That is the job of the local resilience forum in the first instance, to find out what’s going on and to co-ordinate local responses.”

The Energy Networks Association said electricity has been restored to 97% of those affected but it will be at least the end of the week – seven days after the devastating storm – before it is back on for a minority.

Welfare centres and hot food have been provided, with the energy network companies working with local resilience forums, emergency services, local authorities and the British Red Cross.

Engineers from across the UK have been sent to the worst-affected areas.

Energy minister Greg Hands has been visiting Weardale, County Durham, on Wednesday and meeting Northern Powergrid engineers to thank them for their efforts.

He said about 3,000 homes in the St John’s Chapel area had lost power, which should be down to the “few hundreds” by Wednesday night.

The minister was also expected to visit Northern Powergrid’s Newcastle call-centre, his department said.

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