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UK energy minister takes ‘very positive lesson’ from post-storm visit to north-east

UK Energy Minister Greg Hands has said he will take a “very positive lesson” from the efforts made to restore power to the north-east following Storm Arwen.

The Conservative politician was visiting sites around Aberdeenshire today, meeting people affected by the widescale outages following the storm last weekend and those working to help them.

At Ellon Community Campus, Mr Hands met Tessa Carr, the chairwoman of the local resilience group, as well as Lieutenant Colonel Katy Badham-Thornhill and Superintendent Murray Main of Police Scotland.

Speaking to the P&J, he said: “The government, with all of these weather events, always looks to learn lessons and to build on the experience that we’ve learned from these events for future events of a similar nature – which, with climate change, there’s likely to be more coming.”

Energy Minister Greg Hands meeting Tessa Carr of Ellon Community Resilience Group. Picture by Kenny Elrick

Asked what lessons would be learned from Storm Arwen, which left thousands of homes in the north-east without power for days, he added: “One of the early lessons would be the strength of the mutual aid network between the power network companies, bringing in resources from areas of the UK that have been less affected by the storm, like Northern Ireland, like the south of England, like Wales, who have come in to help out here.

“I think that is a very positive lesson for me.”

Mr Hands said around 99% of people who were cut off by the storm have been reconnected, but there were still a few hundred still waiting for their power to be restored.

Lieutenant Colonel Katy Badham-Thornhill, who arrived in the north-east with troops on Thursday. Picture: Daniel Boal

Army offering support

Lt Col Badham-Thornhill was at the campus to represent the army, who began assisting with the recovery yesterday.

She was joined by a group of soldiers, including warrant officer James McCarthy, the company sergeant major of the newly formed Machar group.

He said: “We’ve established teams out on the ground, they were at their various locations for 9am to get the brief off the local teams – the fire brigade, the police – to get their list of addresses to attend today.

“We’ve been chapping on doors, checking everyone’s all right.”

He added: “The feedback from the teams is positive, they’re starting to find a lot of people are not in because power has been restored, therefore people are back at work.

“Any issues identified on the ground are then fired back up through police and fire.”

WO McCarthy said as well as helping recovering from the storm, other people from his Fort George-cased company were out vaccinating people to assist with the NHS’s booster campaign that day.

From left, Andrew Bowie, Greg Hands, SSEN Managing Director Chris Burchell, and

Mr Hands, who became the Minister of State for Business, Energy and Clean Growth in mid-September, had been shown around Methlick and Kemnay earlier in the day by his fellow Tory MPs David Duguid and Andrew Bowie.

Mr Duguid said: “The majority of homes and businesses affected are now back on the grid, following the efforts of thousands of engineers, working day and night.

“Solving rural connection issues is seldom as easy as flicking a switch.

“I am pleased Ofgem have removed the compensation limit so customers will be able to claim up to £140 compensation for every day without power.

“This will be a small comfort for those worst affected, but shows the regulator is aware of the chaos Storm Arwen has caused.”

Mr Bowie added: “We are deeply indebted to the armed forces personnel who have been checking on residents and assisting the general relief effort.

“Recovery from Storm Arwen will require massive effort, and I’d like to thank the many teams of volunteers and council workers who have been a tower of strength this past week.”