EMERGENCY POWER CUTS FAQ
Why is it necessary to implement Emergency Power Cuts?
Emergency Power Cuts are rare. They are only used when it’s necessary to protect the wider power network if there is a serious problem affecting electricity supplies and demand for electricity is expected to exceed the levels available.
Emergency measures have been approved by the Government to enable the electricity industry to manage the situation for customers. These temporary measures include using a planned Emergency Power Cut Rota and instructing some of the UK’s largest users of electricity to reduce their current demands on the electricity network.
This controlled and pre-prepared process will help ensure that the power available is fairly shared amongst as many customers as possible and that power can be safely restored to customers once the issue is resolved.
The scale of these power cuts are set following detailed assessments by the electricity industry of the situation and are approved by the Government.
How are Emergency Power Cuts managed?
Each distribution area across the UK is split into 18 blocks which are each made up of a number of discrete geographical areas. Emergency Power Cut Rotas are developed to share power between these blocks in a fair manner, whilst seeking to minimise the number of power cuts.
The Emergency Power Cut Rota will temporarily reduce electricity demand, protect the UK electricity system and avoid more extensive, unplanned power cuts. The rota will also ensure that everyone has electricity for the majority of the day.
How does the Emergency Power Cut Rota work?
Each day of the week is split into eight three-hour periods. The first starts at 00:30hrs.
Block letters are allocated each of the time periods in a way that enables customers, businesses and communities to operate as normally as possible for three days in succession.
This means that power cuts will either be concentrated between Monday and Wednesday or Thursday and Saturday, with Sunday being shared between all blocks. The more severe the emergency, the greater the potential number of blocks that will need to be switched off at the same time.
How will I know when I will be without electricity?
Should emergency power cuts becoming necessary, there are two things you will need to know that will help you understand what is happening and plan to minimise the impact of your family or business.
- You’ll need to know emergency power cut block letter. You can find this on your electricity bill. It is based on where you live and how your electricity is supplied through the wider power network. Your block letter remains the same at all times. You can also visit www.energyemergencies.org.uk Simply enter your postcode in the box on the front page of and press ‘Go’.
- You’ll need to regularly check the Emergency Power Cut rota on the Energy Emergencies website. The rota will show which block letters will be temporarily switched off and when. It will be published through national and local TV and/or radio stations and on the Energy Emergencies website - www.energyemergencies.org.uk .
To help you plan and minimise the potential impact, information will be available 48-hours’ in advance regarding proposed emergency power cuts. The website will then be updated the evening before the proposed emergency power cuts to confirm if they will take place.
How often will I be switched off?
The electricity supply will be turned off to certain areas, or blocks, for three hours at a time, depending on the nature of the emergency and availability of electricity to share. This could be affected by the weather, the time of day and the overall demand for electricity.
At the lowest level of emergency, you could expect to be without electricity for just three blocks in a week. However, if there is a severe shortage of electricity, you may be without supply much more often.
You will receive 48hrs notice of any planned Emergency Power Cuts being introduced.
The Emergency Power Cut Rota has been developed to share power between these blocks in a fair manner, whilst seeking to minimise the number of power cuts.
The Emergency Power Cut Rota will temporarily reduce electricity demand, protect the UK electricity system and avoid more extensive, unplanned power cuts. The rota will ensure that everyone has electricity for the majority of the day.
What do I do if my electricity does not come back on when I expect it to?
Can I help?
Yes, please try to be energy aware and help to reduce the amount of electricity you use in the short term.
You can help by turning down the temperature of electric heating, and turning it off in any rooms you're not using. If you need to, use extra clothes or blankets to keep warm.
Also please turn off unnecessary lights and avoid using high-power appliances like electric cookers, dishwashers, washing machines, tumble dryers and power showers which all consume a lot of electricity. Also only fill your kettle with the amount of water you need and unplug all equipment that has a standby feature — they use electricity even when you are not using them.
If we all act we may help reduce the period of time that planned power cuts may be required.
Can small generators still export power from solar panels or wind farms onto the electricity network?
As part of the safety measures to protect your equipment, your home and the local electricity network, your own generation will not be able to export electricity to the wider electricity network at the times when you are having an emergency power as part of the rota.
Is anyone exempt from Emergency Power Cuts?
Certain customers, who meet particular criteria, qualify to have their supplies ‘protected’, and will not be disrupted however they have been instructed to reduce the amount of electricity they use to support the industry. These ‘protected customers’, who only make up a very small percentage of the total demand, generally provide essential services on which we depend, and have agreed in advance with the Distribution Network Operators, having satisfied strict criteria, that their supplies will be protected for as long as is feasible.
What if I need electricity for medical reasons, what should I do?
Customers who may be more vulnerable in a power cut can seek advice from their local Distribution Network Operator. You may already be on a Priority Services Register (PSR) maintained by your local Distribution Network Operator and will have been provided with a dedicated PSR telephone number to call for advice and support.
If you specifically require electricity for medical reasons you should contact their local Distribution Network Operator immediately. If you need specialist medical support during a power cut, you should also consider seeking medical advice from your local health service provider.
If you, or someone you know, may be more vulnerable during a power cut and would benefit from joining the Priority Service Register contact your local Distribution Network Operator. You can find their contact details on your electricity bill or by visiting www.powercut105.com (or www.energyemergencies.org.uk).
What can I do to prepare ahead of the Emergency Power Cut?
Important advice includes:
- Remember to keep a mobile phone fully charged ahead of the planned Emergency Power Cuts as cordless landline handsets will not work during a power cut. If you have a corded phone this may still work during a power cut. Mobile provider reception may also not be available.
- Tune your car radio or a battery operated radio to your local station will help keep you informed.
- Keep a torch and batteries handy – this is much safer than using candles.
- Make sure you and your vulnerable relatives/neighbours have a charged mobile phone with important numbers easily accessible in case help is needed.
- Keep important documents and essential telephone numbers somewhere accessible.
- Only use alternative forms of heating, lighting or cooking if you can do so safely.
- If the weather is cold, ensure you have a good supply of warm clothing and a blanket close to hand.
- Fill a vacuum flask and a hot water bottle.
- Keep a wind-up operated torch and radio nearby also and tune into your local radio station for updates.
- Ensure you have some food and drink available that does not require electricity to heat or prepare it and keep fridge and freezer doors closed to preserve the contents.
- You may wish to consider limiting the use of your laptop or your smartphone in the lead up to the Emergency Power Cut to preserve the life of the battery.
- If you have a stair lift, avoid using it up to 30 minutes prior to a planned power cut.
- Regularly back-up work and important files on your computer before a power cut.
- If you have a portable power pack ensure it is charged.
What should I do during an emergency power cut?
- Switch off all electrical appliances except fridges and freezers. It may also help if you can turn off your central heating time switch during times your electricity is scheduled to be off.
- Leave a light on so you know when power is restored.
- Check to see if your neighbours are okay.
- If the weather is cold, keep blankets and warm clothing at hand.