KHO 2016:2 - What can be excluded from the interruption time and what cannot

This case is some of the aftermath from the horrendous Tapani- and Hannu-storms that caused massive problems with the electricity distribution all over Finland in December 2011. Because of the lengthy and strong gusts of wind and trees falling on power lines, electricity had been cut out for almost 77 hours in some rural parts of the local distribution network maintained by a company called Sallila Sähkönsiirto Oy.

The legal problem of this case rises from the fact, that within the 77 hour time scope that the distribution network of Sallila Sähkönsiirto was down, 7 hours were such that also the bigger areal network (of which the distribution network was dependent on) maintained by Fortum Sähkönsiirto Oy was completely inoperative and out of order. How was the interruption time and monetary compensations to be paid by Sallila Sähkönsiirto Oy to be counted in this case, did they have the right to subtract the interruption time of the areal network from the interruption time in their own distribution network when counting the standard compensation amount?

As the interruptions in the distribution network had begun hours before the problems started with the areal network maintained by Fortum, the Supreme Administrative Court ruled that in this case, the interruption time in the areal network was not to be subcontracted when counting the amount of standard compensation. The Supreme Administrative Court pointed out, that no effort by the service operator of the local distribution network had been made to locate or fix the problems with the power lines before or during the time that the areal network of Fortum Sähkönsiirto was down.

The idea behind standard compensation system is to encourage electricity companies to act in a hurry when their power lines are damaged. If however, the sole reason for the beginning of interruptions in electricity delivery could have been pointed to the malfunctioning of the areal network or the transmission grid, then the distribution system operator would have had the right to reduce this time when counting the amount of standard compensations to be paid to the customers. For the service operator of local electricity distribution this kind of a situation would be an “obstacle beyond its possibilities of influence and that cannot reasonably be expected to be taken into account in its operations.”