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Energy bosses face outages grilling

close up, angular shot of electricity pylon31/12/13

By Daniel Machin

Hundreds of thousands of homes were left without electricity over the festive period due to severe storms - and MPs want to know why it took so long to restore power.

Bosses of the UK's energy network companies will now face a grilling when the House of Commons returns from its Christmas recess.

Strong winds, torrential rain and flooding caused damage to power networks, leaving more than 150,000 households cut off.

In many cases people were left without electricity for up to five days, forcing them to spend Christmas in the dark or seek refuge with family and friends.

Network disruption

Tim Yeo, chairman of the Commons energy select committee, described the performance of energy network firms over the period as "unacceptable".

"I'm very concerned about how long the network distribution companies took to restore power to thousands of customers," he said.

"The committee will call them in when the House gets back. I'm already concerned that these distribution companies are not properly scrutinised by Ofgem, despite being effectively monopolies."

As well as quizzing bosses about what happened, the committee is likely to consider the network companies' contingency plans for bad weather and power cuts.

Too many staff away

The compensation on offer for those left without power could also be up for discussion when the House is back on January 6.

Basil Scarsella, chief executive of UK Power Networks, has admitted that it was not prepared for the storm and confessed too many staff were away on holiday at the time.

The company, which owns electricity lines and cables in London, the South East and east of England, is to increase payments for 48 to 60-hour outages from £27 to £75 for those affected on Christmas Day as "a gesture of goodwill".

Additional payments will be made to customers who have been without electricity for longer than that time - up to a maximum of £432.

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