Power cuts – what did we learn?

Mr Tom Miles, area manager for UK Power Networks, and a colleague, attended Brightling Parish Council’s meeting on Monday 9th March and spent about 40 minutes answering questions from members of the public.  We learnt that Brightling has indeed had an above-average level of power cuts in recent years, and they did promise to monitor this level and report back again in a year or so.  There was a definite hint that villages that make a fuss get more attention, so I think it was worth doing.  Here are some things I learnt:

  • Irrespective of who you bills you for your electricity, UK Power Networks are responsible for delivering the stuff.
  • They don’t always find out automatically when you get a power cut.  If it’s a fault affecting the high-voltage distribution network, their automated systems will alert them.  But if it is a fault in the local low-voltage lines, they may simply be unaware.  So, always report a power cut; don’t assume someone else has.
  • Power cut? Call 105You can report a power cut by dialling 105.  Works from landlines and mobiles.  Calls are free!  Why not write this number on your fusebox?
  • You are entitled to compensation (money) if a power cut lasts more than 12 hours.  However the 12 hour limit before compensation is payable increases to 24 hours in severe weather or 48 hours under certain circumstances.  You can also get compensation if you have four or more power cuts of over 3 hours each in any year.  And sometimes they use their discretion and lower the time limits (eg in storm Ciara they were paying after 18 hours).
  • You will only get the compensation if you apply!  They don’t generally seem to send it spontaneously.  The number to phone is 0800 028 4587 (office hours).  Or fill in the form at https://www.ukpowernetworks.co.uk/internet/en/help-and-advice/need-help/can-i-claim-compensation-if-i-have-a-power-cut.html
  • If you have a “vulnerable” person in your household, you can register in advance for extra help.  The definition of vulnerable is quite wide (anyone over retirement age, babies or children under 5, or with special medical needs).  For example Tom Miles said it would be reasonable for a vulnerable household to request a portable generator once a power cut had been going on for 12 hours.  Or they can put you in a hotel!

Here are some further thoughts of my own:

  • Landlines continue to work in a power cut, but many people’s internal phones will rely on the electricity supply (eg cordless systems).  It is worth keeping an old-style phone for use in emergencies.
  • For £25 or so, you can get a device that will keep your mobile powered for days and days during a power cut.  Search for “mobile power bank”.
  • Most people would rather have a working supply – compensation is obviously second best.  But I would suggest that it is always worth applying for compensation.  Apart from anything else, it helps to keep the supplier on their toes.