With weather warnings in place across the UK, we take a look at how the networks prepare for bad weather.
Energy network companies invest millions of pounds to build a resilient electricity network capable of keeping your energy flowing and sustaining the challenges faced by increased demand and adverse weather.
All the investment and preparation and hard work has resulted in the electricity networks restoring power very quickly and very safely in the face of exceptionally bad weather. This is in addition to their investment which has helped to reduce the customer interruptions by 14% and their duration of interruptions by 10% since 2015.
1. How do network operators prepare for bad weather across the year?
The UK has some of the most reliable energy networks in the world and this is because of the year round planning and actions they take to ensure they are able to keep energy flowing. For example, they invest in protecting their equipment from flooding, regularly survey their equipment and carry out year-round tree trimming programmes to reduce the impact of trees and debris on the overhead powerline network.
2. How do network operators prepare when bad weather approaches?
Preparation in earnest begins days before the storms would even hit. Frontline teams are mobilised. Warehouses are prepared and ready to provide the materials needed to carry out repairs should the weather strike.
Decisions are made about strategy, ensuring readiness and providing the ability for the network companies to respond locally to what is happening in their operating areas. This includes establishing availability and cover ‘in the field’ and ensuring that the fleet, which includes specialist vehicles, is ready to be deployed.
3. What can I do to prepare?
You can take some simple steps to prepare for bad weather such as keeping a mobile phone fully charged, adding the emergency numbers to your contacts and bookmarking this website in your smartphone, keeping a torch handy in case you are without power during the night and having warm clothes and blankets accessible if you have a prolonged power cut. Don't approach damage to any equipment and instead, report it by calling 105 and engineers will investigate as soon as possible.
4. Along with preparing frontline staff, what else do network operators do?
Along with increasing the number of operational staff on standby, additional cover is also arranged in contact centres. Dispatch and network control teams and many other supporting functions across the network companies are also ready with additional personnel.
5. Are network companies able to help each other in bad weather?
Yes, although this depends on the severity and the location of bad weather. NEWSAC (Northern Eastern Western and Southern Area Consortium) arrangements provide for the voluntary and temporary transfer of staff and equipment from one company to another. This mutual support in emergencies helps network operators to restore power to customers quicker.
6. How do you provide customers with information during bad weather?
Network operators have many ways of providing customers with information including regular updates on social media, phone calls, text messages and providing a detailed summary of events on their websites. Innovation in customer service has improved significantly over the years and, despite bad weather, hard work and investment made by the networks is resulting in customer service scores averaging nearly nine out of 10.
7. How can customers contact their energy network operator?
In the event of a power cut then customers can call 105 free or contact their network operator directly (who's my energy network operator?). Customers can also call 105 if they spot damage to electricity power lines and substations that could put themselves, or someone else, in danger. If there's a serious immediate risk, they should call the emergency services too. 105 is a free service, available to people in England, Scotland and Wales. Customers in Northern Ireland should call 03457 643 643.
8. What happens after bad weather has passed?
Engineers, technicians and tree cutters walk the overhead powerlines and check for damage, cut back trees and make vital repairs to get customers back on as quickly and as safely as possible. They are very well practiced – in storms of 2020 nearly one million customers were affected by a power outage caused by bad weather, and virtually everyone had their power restored within 24 hours – and for many, much faster than that.
9. What about help for customers who live in vulnerable situations?
Yes. The Priority Services Register is free to join. It helps energy companies look after customers who have extra communication, access or safety needs. It helps companies tailor their services to support households that might need extra help. This would include regular updates about the situation, and in some alternative heating and cooking facilities, alternative accommodation and hot meals in the event of a supply interruption. Those eligible to join the Priority Services Register include customers who are:
- Of pensionable age
- Disabled, chronically sick, or have a long-term medical condition
- Hearing or visually impaired or require additional communication needs
- In a vulnerable situation
- Have young children in the home
About Energy Networks Association
Energy Networks Association (ENA) is the industry body representing the companies which operate the electricity wires, gas pipes and energy system in the UK and Ireland.
ENA helps its members meet the challenge of delivering electricity and gas to communities across the UK and Ireland safely, sustainably and reliably.
Its members include every major electricity and gas network operator in the UK and Ireland, independent operators, National Grid ESO which operates the electricity system in Great Britain and National Grid Gas which operates the gas system in Great Britain. Its affiliate membership also includes companies with an interest in energy, including Heathrow Airport and Network Rail.
What are energy network operators?
Energy network operators manage and maintain the wires, pipes and other infrastructure which delivers electricity and gas to your home, business and community. They are private companies which are regulated by Ofgem and employ around 45,000 people in the UK and Ireland. They are represented by their industry body, Energy Networks Association (that's us).