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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 30 October, 2002, 13:53 GMT
Power cuts' compensation row
Man wrestles with umbrella during high winds
Many customers are still powerless after storms
A row has broken out over possible compensation payments to electricity customers cut off by gales at the weekend.

The government had suggested that customers affected in this way should be eligible for payments.

But Manweb-Scottish Power, which supplies electricity to most of mid and north Wales, has said there will be no compensation because the storm is classed as an "Act of God".

Compensation questions
Consumers without power for 18 hours can claim 50
25 can be claimed for every subsequent 12 hours without power
Companies exempt if severe weather prevented them restoring power
Source: Energywatch

However, they may make an exception for people who have "special circumstances".

A statement from the Department of Trade and Industry suggested customers could claim 50 from companies if they were without power for more than 18 hours.

Companies said that this only applied if there was a loss of power during normal service conditions.

Energy Minister Brian Wilson told BBC Radio Wales companies did have an "Act of God defence" but urged the firms to be flexible in applying it.

He said of the refusal by Manweb-Scottish Power to offer compensation: "It seems to me to be a very rigid response at this stage, particularly in the case of customers who have suffered excessive delays in being reconnected.

"Where a claim is disputed by the companies there is an adjudication process through OFGEM, the regulator.

"There is not an absolute obligation unless they accept some degree of responsibility.

I think there is a line which is difficult to draw, because reasonable people understand that in extreme weather conditions there can and will be power cuts.

"The question which I am trying to get to the bottom of here is whether the system and the companies have responded as well as can reasonably be expected."

Cables

Manweb-Scottish Power have responded to calls to put more cables underground by saying it was not possible in some areas.

They also said underground connections often developed more faults than overhead wires.

And they denied that redundancies made when Scottish Power took over Manweb affected the capacity of the company to carry out repairs swiftly.

Electrician reconnecting wires
Engineers are still working to restore power
The company also countered complaints about calls being answered in Scotland by saying the sheer volume of calls - 36,000 on Sunday in comparison to an average 1,500 - meant call centres in Wrexham, Caernarfon and Warrington could not cope.

Extra engineers and call centre staff were brought in to work in advance of the storm, the company added.

Power loss

Up to 1,800 homes still without power in north Wales should be reconnected by 1400 GMT.

But one town has just suffered a second power cut.

The electricity in Minera, near Wrexham, was restored on Sunday night supplies failed after the gales, but it went off again on Wednesday morning.

Some householders without any power for 54 hours e-mailed BBC News Online to say call centres had been unresponsive and carried outdated information, while others claimed support staff could not cope with Welsh place names.

The Welsh Consumer Council said the power providers should perform far better.

E-mail BBC News Online to share your experiences and frustrations after Wales' weekend gales.

Have your say

The weather station is still there! In fact, we recorded gusts of 105mph on Snowdon Summit and 112mph at the Clogwyn Station over the weekend.
David Evans, North Wales

I live in Corris Uchaf and have been without power for 72 hours. This area is very vulnerable to power cuts as there were three last week before the storms. It would appear that everyday maintenance is not being carried out which consequently results in longer term power failures. The people at the call centres are still unable to give any estimate of restoration of service. I would like to ask Manweb Scottish Power how they expect people to cope? At least I can get a hot drink in work - what about elderly people who cannot get about?
Linda Cluer, Mid Wales

My biggest frustration was the inability to get up-to- date information. With interactive telephone answering systems recorded information by (groups of) postcode could be given. This would only be of use if the estimates were accurate. Better to know that reconnection will be 30 hours, than the blanket "We hope to restore supplies by 6pm." That said, why are the electricity supplies so vunerable to wind damage?
Peter, N. Wales

I have every sympathy with UK travellers after the storms. I have just been informed that because of these same storms British Airways have to cancel flights from Phoenix for the next few days as there are "no crews available". It will take me the best part of 3 days to get home...I shall be glad to get back to the UK weather or not!!
KarolGriffiths, USA


It is a sad fact that we are so dependent upon technology that a little wind and rain can cripple us

Paul, Wales

I had a power cut in Ystradgynlais, Powys during the storms. It only took me three minutes to get through to Western Power Distribution, and they had an engineer out to us in just two hours, we were restored in just four hours, I thought they were very efficient, and their customer service advisors were very helpful.
Jean, Powys , Wales

As usual in these conditions we were without power for most of the day, while four miles away the nearest town was ok. Luckily, we still have a coal fired heater and use bottled gas for cooking so we can survive for a few months!
Tony Smith, South Wales

It is a sad fact that we are so dependent upon technology that a little wind and rain can cripple us. Thirty five years ago, we sent a man to the moon. Currently we would be lucky to send him from Cardiff to London by train, and have him arrive there within one hour of the advertised time. As for electricity shortages - this is what comes of streamlining operations in the grand search for more profits. The entire situation needs rectifying very quickly, before something more severe comes along, and we all pay.
Paul, Wales

Fifty four hours without electricity, and no sign of it being restored. Manweb Scottish Power could invest the money they pay the staff who give you absolutely no information, to improve the infrastructure. What a complete waste of a phone call!
Paul Jones, North Wales

Although I have been lucky not to have suffered any damage or power cut since the gales at the weekend, but here in Aberystwyth my Vodafone signal seems to have disappeared for the last three days. This has seriously inconvenienced me. And no sign of it coming back!
Michael, Cymru


Yet again Wales descends into the Dark Ages despite years of promise from Manweb and now Scottish Power that "improvements" will be made

Brian Charles, Wales
Luckily, although power wasn't restored in my family home in mid Wales for some hours, we were able to turn to hydro-power. We have a water turbine at the end of our field and were able to turn it on to give electricity in the house!. My mum and dad lived happily off that over the weekend! I apologise to others that weren't so lucky!
Catrin, Caernarfon, North Wales

Just before the very good "Snowdon Weather Station" web site went off line I was seeing gust speeds of 103 mph and an average of 74 mph on the mountain. Has the weather station been blown away??
Charles, England

Yet again Wales descends into the Dark Ages despite years of promise from Manweb and now Scottish Power that "improvements" will be made to the infrastructure. At least its Monday and I can get into work - another part of the empire - unaffected by the storms. Why in rural north west Wales do we seem to have power cut after power cut and the rest of the country does not suffer the same misery. It would help if the call centre gave up-to-date information instead of hours old rubbish. The company seem repeatedly to make excuses and blame the weather, whereas other stormy countries have emergency plans to put into place and seem to be able to cope. Mind you there is a new excuse - blaming the clocks going back is a new one - who thought that up?
Brian Charlton, Wales

After 36 hours without electricity, I would like the opportunity to actually speak to someone at Manweb about it, instead of only getting a prerecorded message. Will the contents of my freezer be salvageable, will the electricity be reconnected by tonight, or will it be another night with candles? Some indication of timescales would be appreciated. At least I can come to work today to get some heat and send this
Gillian Anderson, North Wales

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 ON THIS STORY
BBC Wales' Glen Goodman
"The issue has moved from power to compensation."
See also:

30 Oct 02 | Wales
29 Oct 02 | England
29 Oct 02 | UK
28 Oct 02 | England
28 Oct 02 | Business
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