Colin Smyth MSP
Colin Smyth MSP

A report from energy regular Ofgem has said power firms must improve their storm response after Storm Arwen left thousands of people in Dumfries and Galloway and the Borders without power.

The storm brought severe wind, rain and snow across the region on 26 November.

Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders were among the worst-hit areas.

Ofgem said three network companies – Northern Powergrid, Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks and Electricity North West – have agreed to pay £10.3m in “redress payments” to support communities affected by Storm Arwen and for upgrading networks to minimise the impact of severe weather events.

This is in addition to almost £30m in compensation that has been paid by the firms.

South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has said the “significant” failings by the energy firms must not be repeated.

The local MSP said: “This report confirms what we have known all along – that the power firms must step up their game and improve their storm response.

“Back in November there were significant failings in the response, in particular from energy firms such as Scottish Power in Dumfries and Galloway and the Borders, and this must not be repeated.

“There were also serious questions to answer about the robustness of the network in rural communities. The situation would not have happened in our cities, where the energy network is underground.

“In Dumfries and Galloway I have seen the growing importance of community resilience groups, and the impressive work by the council in promoting, supporting and harnessing the huge commitment of volunteers in those groups. There are now over 80 such groups, all with community resilience local plans in place, and they really stepped up to the mark during storm Arwen.

“However, given that the need for a front-line response will continue to grow as the frequency of such emergencies grows, I wonder whether it is time for the Government, in consultation with local authorities, to consider adding an eighth duty—that councils must promote community resilience, in the same way as they are required to promote business continuity. Crucially, that duty would need to come with funding, and one of my concerns is that current support for councils is not adequate for dealing with the emergencies that they face.”

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