We worked closely with both BEIS and Ofgem throughout their in-depth reviews of the response to Storm Arwen and will play our part in delivering the improvements outlined in the reports that will ensure the energy sector better supports customers in major power cuts and severe weather events.
As we said at the time, we understand how challenging Storm Arwen was for our customers and we are sorry for the difficulty and disruption it caused to their lives. We appreciate the patience that they showed and the dedication of our team who worked through some of the most difficult conditions we have ever faced.
The extreme nature of the event meant we learned some difficult lessons. It highlighted some limitations in our systems and showed us things we can do to be able to provide a stronger response to more extreme storms. We are committed to doing those things to make the communities that we serve more resilient to extreme weather events.
We started to take action to improve our approach to customer communications and estimated restoration times during the later stages of the response to Storm Arwen, and we continued to work to improve that in the storms that followed. We have already seen some benefit from those early improvements that are helping to keep individuals, families, businesses and other key partners better updated and able to make more informed decisions in severe weather events. And we will keep working to improve – in line with the actions called for in the reports.
We are also investing in improving the resilience of our website, telephony systems and power cut map in periods of exceptional demand. Those investments are happening now and will provide greater support for our customers, increased call capacity and better messaging when we have large volumes of calls.
The biggest investment we make to limit the impact of storms on our region is in our network. By the end of the 2015-23 period we will have made investments of almost £1bn in maintaining the long term health of our network and increasing its resilience – and close to £200m of that will have focused directly on our overhead lines. We are actively engaged in dialogue with our regulator about the right levels of investment for the coming years. We have proposed increased investment in our overhead lines of around 60%, along with over £50m on tree cutting over the next five years.
As part of the improvement actions that address the findings of the investigation, we have agreed with Ofgem that we will fund charitable and not-for-profit activities that improve the resilience of communities in our region, with a particular focus on those people who need help the most both in storm situations and as we address the longer-term effects of climate change. We will donate over £7.5m and begin working with our community partners to identify the best ways to create a positive and enduring impact. When added to the compensation and direct support we have already provided to our customers affected by the storm, the total will exceed £20m.
Storm Arwen was one of the most challenging incidents that colleagues from across our business have had to face. We are grateful to our teams for being there for our customers and their ongoing commitment to ensuring our customers receive the standards of service they expect and deserve, both now and in the future.
Chief Executive, Northern Powergrid