Utility Week

UTILITY Week 23rd January 2015

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26 | 23rd - 29th January 2015 | utILIty WEEK Customers This week Thousands of NIW customers off supply Industrial action leaves northern Ireland Water unable to fix faults in treatment works Thousands of Northern Ireland Water customers remain without a mains water supply because of "intermittent" faults at its water treatment facilities and an ongo- ing industrial dispute with staff, which is delaying repairs. A total of 7,750 households were without a water supply on Tuesday morning, up from 6,500 on Monday. The new supply disruptions come just a week aer the company said 10,000 customers in the Fermanagh and Tyrone areas were le without a mains water supply fol- lowing a fault at the Enniskillen treatment plant. Union members have refused to do overtime or on-call work because of a dispute over pay and pensions, and NI Water said that because the industrial action had le it with "limited resources", its response had been "restricted". The company said interruptions to customers were "virtually inevitable" because of the 26,000km of water mains, 15,000km of sewers and thousands of pump- ing stations and treatment works which needed to be monitored. In a statement, NI Water said it was "working to minimise disruption to customers' supplies" and would "provide alternative supplies" wherever possible. It asked customers to "use water wisely to help conserve remain- ing supplies". The company said it remained on "high alert" and continued to engage with trade unions in an effort to resolve the dispute. MB Pan-utILIty Consumers prefer digital interaction A third of customers would rather engage with their utility supplier digitally than in person, according to a survey. The survey into customers' digital use found that almost a third, 31 per cent, of utility customers would always prefer to use digital services to interact, while 70-75 per cent would "always or sometimes" use digital services. However, respondents indi- cated a relatively low satisfac- tion level of 48 per cent when using utilities' digital services compared with those offered by the retail and finance industries. Almost 80 per cent of utility company employees respond- ing to the survey thought their companies should invest more in technology services or applica- tions over the next two years – the highest level compared with the responses from other sectors. The research was carried out by Fujitsu, surveying 1,000 UK adults and 1,400 UK employees. EnErgy SSE: be quick or miss out on Warm Home SSE last week appealed to customers eligible for the Warm Home Discount Scheme to apply before the deadline of 16 January. Most of the big six suppliers have a cut-off date at the end of January, but SSE's fell almost two weeks earlier. The scheme is split into two groups, core and broader. Households in the core group automatically receive the dis- count from the Department for Work and Pensions, but those in the broader group have to apply to their energy supplier. The government launched the scheme in 2011 to legally oblige suppliers with more than 250,000 customers to offer those qualifying a rebate on their winter electricity costs. ELEctrIcIty Networks back after midweek storms SSE subsidiaries Scottish Hydro Electric Power Distribution and Southern Electric Power Distri- bution have resumed normal operations following a string of severe weather events across the UK. Parts of the electricity network suffered 80mph winds from late on Wednesday night (14 January) to early Thursday morning, which resulted in loss of power to 1,160 Scot- tish and 2,300 south England households, prompting SSE to mobilise more than 1,000 extra engineering and technical staff. Friday 16 January saw further storms result in 45,000 house- holds being le off supply. Treatment works hit by faults I am the customer John Allan "Many small businesses still have no resilience plan" The FSB has been working to understand how resilient small businesses are to extreme weather. This has been one of the key, unanswered ques- tions raised by government, the Adaptation Sub-Committee and others in advance of the 2017 UK Climate Impacts Assessment. New FSB research shows that 66 per cent of small businesses have been negatively affected by extreme weather in the past three years. Small businesses are driv- ing the UK's economic recovery, However, our recent research suggests that almost 60 per cent of small businesses still have no resilience plan in place. The FSB is therefore looking to see how we can further help businesses to help themselves to minimise the impact of extreme weather. At a strategic level, we will con- tinue to press for vulnerabilities in our national infrastructure and utility networks to be identi- fied and addressed. John Allan, chairman, Federation of Small Businesses so it is critical that we identify which bits of our economy are vulnerable to a changing climate. Last winter was the wettest on record. A series of storms caused coastal damage and widespread flooding to homes and businesses across the UK. However, once the clean-up operation was underway, it became clear that property dam- age caused by water inundation was only one part of the picture. As a result of disruption to transport and utility infrastruc- ture, many small businesses suf- fered from the indirect impacts on their operations and staff, with many reporting a drop in customer numbers.

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