Sep 18, 2023

Planned Interruptions and Outages

We look at how you might deal with planned power interruptions or outages should they be imposed by the National Grid and other UK providers.

How would three-hour power cuts work if executed in Great Britain?

Interruptions to your power supply are inconvenient at the best of times whether at home or at work. If your business relies on mains electricity for any part of its operations, this could be catastrophic with downtime of business critical systems and networks, not to mention the potential cost of lost revenue.

There have been many discussions and forwarnings that scheduled power cuts may become a reality in the UK, particularly during the colder months While the National Grid has labelled this scenario as 'unlikely', (and the UK would need to have its gas supplies massively reduced or shut off for this to happen), there does need to be an emergency plan put in place. This is called load-shedding.

The aim of Load-shedding is to reduce power usage in dedicated areas (dependant on your supplier) by 5% through scheduled 3-hour disconnections). By switching the power off to groups of different customers at a time, the entire system is no longer at risk. Households and businesses in different areas of the UK would be cut off at different times or days having been given prior warning of when this would happen.

Businesses can apply for protected site status to avoid disconnection while certain manufacturers and designated sites and industries (including hospitals, water treatment plants and transport) would be automatically exempt. For businesses and organisations, a UPS or Uninterruptible Power Supply is the best way to combat this for short to medium periods (anything up to 3 hours).

What can households do in the event of these outages?

Should these planned outages become a reality at any time of the year, you will be notified in advance of the 3-hour block where your supply will be shut off. The following tips are designed to lessen the impact should your home be scheduled for an outage.

  • Make sure your laptop, phone and tablets are fully charged leading up to the scheduled outage.
  • If you have 'power banks' as a source of back-up power to connect to these devices, ensure that these are also fully charged.
  • Protect your refrigerated and frozen food stuffs by ensuring that doors are properly closed and remain closed for the term of the outage. Set your freezer to its coldest setting 12 hours prior to the planned outage, this will help frozen food stay frozen longer.
  • Stock up on food and drink that can be prepared without electricity. If you have a gas hob, keep some matches close by.
  • Fill a thermos flask with boiling water for hot drinks.
  • Ensure your car's fuel tank is at least half full, most service stations won't be able to pump fuel during an outage.
  • If the outage is scheduled to take place in the hours of darkness, ensure that battery operated torches are close to hand and that new batteries are readily available. These are safer than candles.
  • If you rely on mains powered heaters in certain rooms, dress in warm layers and ensure you have plenty of blankets available to compensate for the lack of heating.
  • Closing doors on unused rooms will also help to reduce heat loss.
  • If you have tropical or marine fish, the temperature in the water will drop gradually - wrapping blankets around the tank will help to insulate it during the outage while an inexpensive battery powered air pump can be temporarily used in place of the existing mains powered oxygen pump / bubbler.
  • Switch off appliances and lights but leave 1 light on so you know when power has been restored. This creates natural surge protection for all mains connected items but it is better to ensure that any plug extensions have surge protection as a feature.
  • And finally, should you require an alternate source of power at home, small Uninterruptible Power Supply systems are easily connected to critical items either by way of standard UK plugs (for domestic equipment including home hubs and routers), or IEC cables for laptops, computers and monitors. Stair lifts and adjustable beds will ideally already have an emergency back-up source in place but a UPS can be used for these items also.

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