What are blackouts and why might they happen this winter?

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The times that households in the UK could see planned blackouts this winter in a worst case scenario are detailed in Government emergency planning documents. These proposals predate recent announcements, however, so it is possible that — should planned blackouts prove necessary this winter — plans may be updated and revised. However, the National Grid Electricity System Operator has stated that such drastic resorts are fortunately “unlikely” to be called upon in the near future.

According to the emergency code from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy: “If a prolonged electricity shortage affects a specific region, or the whole country, electricity rationing may be necessary.

“The Electricity Supply Emergency Code (ESEC) outlines the process for ensuring fair distribution nationally while still protecting those who require special treatment, using a process known as ‘rota disconnections’.”

The emergency code explains that each of the UK’s 14 electricity distribution networks are divided into 18 load blocks — each of which is given an alphabetical identifier (A, B, C, etc.).

Accordingly, every household on the network is given a block letter based on their relevant point of connection into the power grid. This information can often be found on your electricity bill — if not, your energy supplier should be able to tell you on request.

In the event of a planned blackout, each block will take it in turns to be temporarily disconnected from the grid, reducing the overall load on our power networks.

Your household’s letter will therefore determine at what times you might expect to experience temporary blackouts, should such become necessary.

According to the plans, each day of the week is split into eight three-hour periods in which a localised blackout might be planned — with the first running from 12.30am through to 3.30am.

On top of this, the emergency code also defines 18 different planned levels of severity, with level one being the least disruptive and level 18 the point where all supplies are cut off.

Level nine marks the threshold at which households would start spending more time in blackout conditions than with power. Of course, such dire circumstances are thought to be extremely unlikely to occur this winter.

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