Following last week’s nationwide blackout, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Andrea Leadsom, has tasked the government’s Energy Emergencies Executives Committee with completing a review of the system operator’s role in Britain’s first major blackout in a decade within 12 weeks.
The investigation is expected to establish what happened to cause the UK blackout and whether correct procedures were followed. It will also consider whether future power cuts could be prevented and how to minimise the impact of a blackout on people and essential services when they do occur.
Leadsom said: “Friday’s incident demonstrates the need to have a diverse energy mix.”
The investigation is likely to raise questions about standards agreed between Ofgem and National Grid that govern how the energy system is managed, as well as the role of regional network operators in keeping the lights on.
Meanwhile, National Grid is ‘urgently reviewing’ what happened to trigger the outage, which caused significant chaos and disruption to hundreds of thousands of people.
John Pettigrew, National Grid’s chief executive, used his first interview since the blackout to blame regional network operators for making the rare outage more severe. He told the Financial Times that the investigation should look into why the networks allowed power to be cut to critical infrastructure such as railways and hospitals.
Trains were left waiting on the tracks for hours. Tunnels on the London Underground went dark. A backup generator at Ipswich Hospital failed to start, leaving some to struggle down stairs after the lifts ground to a halt.
National Grid has said that the rare blackout was caused by a sudden drop in the energy system’s frequency, or energy intensity, after two unexpected generation outages within minutes of each other.
Energy industry sources and experts agree that the energy system has become more volatile in recent years.
As we await the verdict of the Energy Emergencies Executives Committee review, we are urging businesses to protect themselves against the possibility of future blackouts with a robust stand-by power solution.
Plan ahead, make provisions and avoid the panic. Don’t be caught out in the dark.