Paper: Elektrilevi pocketed over €44,000 from October 2019 Võru storm ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Storm damage in Võru in October 2019.
Storm damage in Võru in October 2019. Source: Heini Heinlaid/ERR

Residents of the town of Võru in South Estonia have not seen a cent in compensation for a major power outage last fall which saw around 15,000 households without power, in some cases for several days. At the same time, electricity distribution network operator Elektrilevi has allegedly summed itself tens of thousands of Euros for the outage, due to its being the sole customer of Elering, who operate the grid. The latter was found primarily at fault for the outage, notwithstanding the high wind speeds.

The Competition Authority (Konkurentsiamet) is in response developing proposals on how to change the power outage compensation system, better to benefit those cut off rather than those whose infrastructure gets cut off. Increased fines may also be introduced.

The storm of the night of Sunday, October 27 saw tens of thousands left without power, principally in Võru and also in parts of western Estonia, with 30,000 still powerless on Monday morning, and some connections not up and running again until several days later.

The prime minister visited the region in the aftermath, and Elektrilevi received dozens of damages claims in the days following the storm.

At the same time, Elektrilevi was a beneficiary of damages, it is reported.

"In fact, Elektrilevi put €44,232 in its pocket in respect of the power outage in the city of Võru," Märt Ots, Director General of the Competition Authority, told daily Eesti Päevaleht (EPL- link in Estonian).

Competition Authority looking at rectifying damages procedures

Ots' allegation is based on a report of the supervision procedure prepared last week by the specialists from the Competition Authority, which covers the power outage that hit the city of Võru and environs.

Two companies operating electricity cables were examined at the same time: Sate-owned company Elering, the owner of the transmission network, and Elektrilevi, a subsidiary of [state-owned] Eesti Energia, which supplies electricity from the grid to the consumer, via smaller cables.

The Competition Authority is of the opinion that Elering could have prevented the power outage at the Võru substation if more effective construction supervision had been performed, which in turn meant that Elering had to be responsible for the outage

Since the outage of such a key substation for a long time exceeded the time limits for elimination of the fault, Elering paid a "fine", in that it had to reduce its network charges by a total of €44,232.04, EPL reported.

However, rather than being passed on to the consumer, this compensation went to the user of Elering's service - Elering's sole customer in this area is Elektrilevi, and thus the compensation paid in full went to the company, the competition body said.

Actual outage was responsibility of Elering

The report revealed that the most extensive power outage was caused by a large-scale failure of Elering's Võru substation at 4.32 p.m. on the Sunday, caused by part of a roof, as an electrically conductive material (many roofs in Estonia are made of sheet metal, including tin) hitting transformers and insulators, causing short circuits and electricity in the entire Võru area.

While wind speeds were also a significant factor at the time of the breakdown, a report commissioned by Elering shows that the wrong materials had been used in the construction, and the technical details in place differed from those originally planned.

Märt Ots stated to EPL that this compensation remained in Elektrilevi's pocket, at its headquarters in Tallinn, and no Võru resident who was really kept in the dark received any benefit.

In the opinion of the Competition Authority board, the situation where the reduction of Elektrilevi's network fee was not passed on to Elektrilevi's end users is not right and proper, and therefore such discrepancies being allowed to emerge should be changed, in the opinion of the board.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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