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    Energy Secretary visits County Durham villages without power

    December 6, 2021 - Bruce Unwin


      THE Government Minister overseeing the energy sector has visited the North East to see for himself the problems caused in the aftermath of Storm Arwen.

      Kwasi Kwarteng met people affected by the lengthy post-storm outages and conceded it was, “totally unacceptable” they should be without power nine days after the storm.

      The Energy Secretary called at St John’s Chapel, in Weardale, and at Middleton-in-Teesdale, two of the County Durham communities affected by the prolonged power cuts.

      He also spoke to some of the hundreds of engineers draughted in to carry out emergency repairs to the network, as well as to military personnel, members of emergency services and other bodies delivering support packages and doing welfare checks on householders still without power.

      Mr Kwarteng then visited energy supplier Northern Powergrid’s Penshaw headquarters, on Wearside, to meet some of the customer services call handlers, working long stressful shifts responding to cries for help from stricken customers.

      He also met Northern Powergrid’s chief executive officer Phil Jones and major incident manager Rob Gardner to see how the task of restoring power to the last few thousand customers is being handled.

      Going into the weekend, a week after the storm, there were still 5,100 customers, about 4,000 in County Durham, with no power in the North East, from the 240,000 cut off by the storm in the region.

      By the time of his visit it was down to about 3,900, meaning 99.5 of those cut off had seen their power returned.

      Mr Kwarteng said: “That is no solace if you are without power.

      “It’s totally unacceptable situation and Northern Power are trying to get people back on as quickly as possible.

      “I’ve said publicly that having 4,000 people off power for more than a week is unacceptable.

      “Going forward it’s my job to ensure we are as resilient as possible.”

      Mr Kwarteng said he had seen “really excellent engagement” by the various bodies, including the military, all of whom were, “doing a fabulous job”, to help those still cut off.

      Over the weekend troops have been deployed to areas in County Durham and Northumberland worst affected by Storm Arwen, last weekend.

      In County Durham 83 members of the Catterick-based Royal Lancers backed the efforts of the Local Resilience Forum (LRF), performing welfare checks, with a similar number deployed to Northumberland.

      They are distributing aid and reassuring the several thousand residents still without power.

      Support parcels with food and heating essentials have been supplied by Durham County Council.

      Northern Powergrid said it is hoping to have all those still without power restored by Wednesday, or Thursday, “at the latest”.

      Soldiers arrived at St John’s Chapel, in Weardale, on Friday, helping partners carry out door-to-door visits to check on residents’ wellbeing.

      Their presence follows a request by Durham and Darlington LRF for additional resources to support the work being undertaken across affected communities in the county.

      Representatives from Durham County Council, County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service, Durham Constabulary, Teesdale and Weardale Search and Mountain Rescue Team, NHS bodies, Northern Powergrid, Northumbrian Water, the voluntary sector and many other partners have been providing a range of support to residents this week.

      A “major incident” was declared in the county on Wednesday and in neighbouring Northumberland on Friday.

      Keep up to date with all the latest news on our website, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

      You can also follow our dedicated County Durham Facebook page for all the latest in the area by clicking here.

      For all the top news updates from right across the region straight to your inbox, sign up to our newsletter here.

      Have you got a story for us? Contact our newsdesk on or contact 01325 505054


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