Inquiry into power cut chaos
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.