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Firm faces flak over power cuts

PUBLISHED: 16:34 04 December 2008 | UPDATED: 12:28 03 July 2010

Dominic Bareham

AN energy company has been slammed for the way it has handled maintenance work to cables, which resulted in power being cut off to 380 homes in Caister, including many elderly residents.

AN energy company has been slammed for the way it has handled maintenance work to cables, which resulted in power being cut off to 380 homes in Caister, including many elderly residents.

EDF Energy turned off the electricity supply to homes in six streets including West Road, Upper Grange Road, Westerley Way, Coxswain Read Way, Blyth Road and Villarome for five hours on Tuesday.

But villager David Morrice, who helps out the elderly residents, was unhappy with the way EDF had acted, especially as the company had stated in a letter to villagers that power would be out for eight hours, rather than the five it actually took to get the work done.

Mr Morrice, who lives in Villarome, said the supplier had a duty to provide residents with an alternative source of electricity while the power was off, such as by giving them generators, but had not fulfilled this commitment.

He also believed the work could have been completed at a more convenient time of year, such as during the spring or at night when the demand for electric and heating was not as great.

While the power was off, the temperature in Mr Morrice's home dropped from 68F to 55F and he said one of his elderly neighbours had gone to find somewhere warm to stay because he could not cope with the cold.

The EDF letter sent on November 21 to householders stated the work was being done to create a high voltage cable diversion.

But Mr Morrice said: “I am thankful it did not take the full eight hours. The way the letter was written did not show much concern for people's feelings. It could have been worded to cause a little less panic. They have caused panic by saying it could go on for eight hours.”

The Homewatch coordinator said there had been a number of similar power cuts for maintenance in the past, but this especially long cut resulted in residents not just losing electrical appliances, but also having to keep food frozen without a working freezer.

An EDF spokeswoman said the Caister maintenance work was part of a long-term project to improve the firm's electricity networks, which is set to cost £2 billion and finish in 2010.

She added the industry standard was to give two days notice, but in this case 12 days notice was given and that customers who relied on power for essential business were encouraged to arrange back up supplies.

She said: “Our maintenance work has to be carried out on an ongoing basis throughout the year, to ensure the best service for customers. We appreciate that this type of work will inconvenience some people whichever time of day, date and season it is scheduled for.”

She added: “EDF Energy Networks would like to apologise for the inconvenience caused but we hope people understand the long-term benefits to the area. This work was essential to maintain the equipment that brings power to homes and businesses in this area, to ensure reliable supplies in the future.”

EDF also keeps a register of customers who need electricity for medical reasons so they can be given extra help during a power cut. To enrol on the register, write to Priority Service Customer Team, EDF Energy Networks, Fore Hamlet, Ipswich, Suffolk IP3 8AQ.

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