In­quiry into power cut chaos

The Sunday Telegraph - - Front Page -

By Steve Bird and Do­minic Ni­cholls

THE Gov­ern­ment has launched an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into how Na­tional Grid al­lowed the big­gest power cut in a decade, plung­ing the coun­try’s road and rail net­works into chaos.

An­nounc­ing the in­quiry last night, An­drea Lead­som, the En­ergy Sec­re­tary, also or­dered Na­tional Grid to tell Ofgem, the en­ergy watch­dog, how the fail­ure of a gas-fired power sta­tion and a wind farm left nearly a mil­lion homes and busi­nesses with­out power.

“Yes­ter­day’s power out­ages caused enor­mous dis­rup­tion – Na­tional Grid must ur­gently re­view and report to Ofgem,” she said.

She added the En­ergy Emer­gen­cies Ex­ec­u­tive Com­mit­tee, the gov­ern­ment body re­spon­si­ble for en­sur­ing a sta­ble power sup­ply, would “con­sider the in­ci­dent”.

The power out­age on Fri­day means around a mil­lion peo­ple could be en­ti­tled to com­pen­sa­tion af­ter los­ing their elec­tric­ity sup­ply.

Mean­while rail pas­sen­gers, some of whom were stranded on trains stuck

be­tween sta­tions for up to nine hours, will also be en­ti­tled to com­pen­sa­tion from train com­pa­nies.

The Little Bar­ford gas-fired power sta­tion in Bed­ford­shire failed shortly be­fore 5pm on Fri­day. Mo­ments later, Hornsea Wind Farm off the York­shire coast shut down.

Jonathan Brear­ley, Ofgem’s ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of sys­tems and net­works, said he wanted a report from Na­tional Grid ex­plain­ing why the net­work was plunged into cri­sis with­out ad­e­quate backup sys­tems pre­vent­ing the out­age.

“Given the dis­rup­tion caused to con­sumers, it’s im­por­tant that we get to the root cause of Fri­day’s power fail­ure, and this is why Na­tional Grid Elec­tric­ity Sys­tem Op­er­a­tor (ESO) will pro­vide us with a de­tailed report. We will then con­sider what steps to take. This could in­clude en­force­ment ac­tion if ev­i­dence emerges that Na­tional Grid ESO or any net­work com­pany have breached the li­cence con­di­tions we place on them to pro­tect con­sumers.”

It is un­der­stood the watch­dog is keen to es­tab­lish how quickly Na­tional Grid staff re­sponded to each gen­er­a­tor fail­ing. While Ofgem has the power to fine Na­tional Grid, it is more likely to de­mand com­pen­sa­tion for those home­own­ers and busi­nesses worst af­fected.

Na­tional Grid in­sisted its sys­tems “worked well” fol­low­ing the “in­cred­i­bly rare and un­usual” event.

Dun­can Burt, Na­tional Grid’s direc­tor of oper­a­tions, said the power cuts hap­pened be­cause the net­work be­came over­whelmed, trig­ger­ing au­to­matic sys­tems to turn off some power to al­low the re­main­ing net­work to con­tinue func­tion­ing.

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