Utility Week

Uberflip 17 01 14

Utility Week - authoritative, impartial and essential reading for senior people within utilities, regulators and government

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Customers This week Government to introduce a single emergency number for those affected by power cuts Davey: DNOs must set up blackout hotline The government is planning to introduce a single emergency number for those affected by power cuts, energy secretary Ed Davey announced last week. Some people who lost supply following the Christmas storms did not know how to contact their local network and did Down the line: customers will call one number not know when they would be reconnected, Davey said. Following a meeting with bosses of the distribution network operators, Davey ordered a review to focus on customer communications and report back within two months. Network bosses agreed to contact customers who may be entitled to compensation. UK Power Networks and Southern Electric Power Distribution had already promised to pay £75, more than regulations require, to any customer suffering a power cut on Christmas Day. The review will also look at whether the networks have sufficient resources and contingency arrangements for extreme weather. Basil Scarsella, chief executive of UKPN, told The Mail on Sunday after the event his company's response was hampered by many staff being on leave. "We could and should have done more," he said. Davey said: "It's virtually unprecedented for storms to affect such a huge area of the UK for so long, and this prevented network operators helping their colleagues in other regions, as would normally happen. So the review will also look at the contingency plans and levels of resources required so that operators can be prepared for the worst should an event like this ever happen again." MD Water Compulsory social tariff not on agenda The government has eiterated r its refusal to introduce a compulsory social tariff for water companies as the cost of living debate canters on. Asked during Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) parliamentary questions last Thursday what progress he had made on introducing the scheme proposed by Labour, environment secretary Owen Paterson said water companies were "best placed to take decisions on the design of social tariffs as part of their charges schemes". According to Paterson, most water companies will have a social tariff in place by 2015-16. However, Labour MP Grahame Morris argued that the cost of living crisis was affecting "about 2 million households in England and Wales who are classed as living in water poverty", and questioned why the government had rejected Labour's proposals during the Water Bill's third r eading last Monday. Energy Price cuts are 'a con trick', says Labour The price cuts the major energy suppliers have announced to their customers' energy bills are "a con trick", according to Labour. The major energy suppliers have all announced price reductions of around £50 following the government's changes to the environmental and social obligations, which were announced in December. Shadow energy secretary Caroline Flint said that following Npower's announcement to cut bills by £54, "people's energy bills will still be higher this winter than last". Energy Decc plans to extend redress rights Up to 150,000 microbusinesses are set to get greater redress rights from their energy companies under new proposals put forward by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc). The plans would enable enterprises with double the current expenditure on electricity or gas to have the same redress rights as those covered by the current definition of microbusinesses. Under the existing definition, a microbusiness consumes less than 55,000kWh of electricity or less than 200,000kWh of gas, and has fewer than 10 staff and an annual turnover not exceeding €2 million (£1.7 million). Decc's planned changes would coincide with changes Ofgem will make to the definition of a microbusiness, which from 31 March will change to 100,000kWh and 293,000kWh limits for electricity and gas, respectively. I am the customer Emma Gray In December 2013, the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO), the complaints handling body for most water providers in Scotland, published its first public interest investigation report about the water industry. We published it in full because the repeat failings in complaints handling at Business Stream needed to be addressed. A man complained that a second water meter had been installed on a company's private water supply pipe and that there "Billing and charging is the largest subject of complaint" was double charging. He was also unhappy with the way his original complaint had been handled. Our investigation found that there was unnecessary and protracted correspondence about the matter, a lack of clarity in Business Stream's responses to the complainant and to our office, and needless delays in 26 | 17th - 23rd January 2014 | UTILITY WEEK dealing with the complaint. We made several recommendations, including that Business Stream carry out an independent audit of its entire complaints process and how it is applied. We also recommended that it formally apologise for the delays, confusion and inconvenience caused and make a financial redress payment. Last year's SPSO water sector report shows that in 2012/13 we received 353 complaints about water providers. The single largest subject of complaint was billing and charging, representing 47 per cent of all water complaints received. Last year we upheld 45 per cent of water complaints and publicly reported 81 of 98 decisions, making 99 recommendations for improvement. Emma Gray, head of policy and communications, SPSO

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