Electricity firm's power cut pledge

Power cuts in the Diss area should reduce drastically over the next 12 months, EDF Energy bosses vowed tonight . The pledge was made a public meeting called by South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon, whose concerns at the number of major faults over the past 14 months have sparked an investigation by the Department of Trade and Industry.

Power cuts in the Diss area should reduce drastically over the next 12 months, EDF Energy bosses vowed tonight .

The pledge was made a public meeting called by South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon, whose concerns at the number of major faults over the past 14 months have sparked an investigation by the Department of Trade and Industry.

Businesses in the town have lost thousands of pounds in revenue and damage to equipment, prompting concerns about threats to local jobs and the impact on the economy.

At the meeting at the town's Park Hotel, Clive Witherly, EDF's head of customer operations, outlined a programme of improvements totalling more than £200,000 in 2007. The work includes replacing cables in the Uplands Way and Skelton Road areas of the town, and £40,000 on new technology to help detect faults automatically and restore supplies within minutes.

“As an engineer, I can confirm the supply we have given you is not acceptable,” he said.

“I can promise we can do better than we are. I think we recognise that when you ring up you sometimes don't get much information. This is an area we are trying to improve on,” he stressed.

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Among the criticisms, was the “derisory” amount paid by the company to those who had experienced blackouts in excess of 18 hours.

One disgruntled businessman said: “On the 15th of December we lost 100 hours production at least, and £100 is pathetic compensation. That £100 doesn't penalise EDF, it certainly penalises us.”

Another said his firm has lost 120 orders, and was now spending between £20,000 to £30,000 installing generators as a back-up.

Mr Bacon, who chaired the meeting, said: “Eight significant power cuts in a built up area in the space of 14 months is highly unacceptable. What do you think is going to happen in the next 12 months?”

Mr Witherly told him: “If we can control third party damage, I would be very disappointed if we had more than zero (power failures). One should be the absolute limit.”

He said it should take six months to carry out the work and predicted it would bring about an eight fold improvement.