While Great Britain’s electricity system is extremely reliable and resilient, power cuts – also known as power outages - can happen for a variety of reasons.
If you experience a power cut that you weren’t expecting, you can report it by calling 105. This will connect you to your distribution network operator (DNO), who own and maintain the power lines that connect to homes or businesses.
Looking for information about power cuts in the US? Visit the National Grid US website
If you experience a power cut that you weren’t expecting, you can report it by calling 105. This will connect you to your distribution network operator (DNO), who own and maintain the power lines that connect to homes and businesses.
If you live in the Midlands, South West England or South Wales, your DNO is National Grid. If you live elsewhere, you’ll have a different DNO.
You can find out who your DNO is by entering your postcode on the Energy Networks Association's website.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine means that overall, this is likely to be a challenging winter for energy supply throughout Europe.
If there isn’t enough electricity to power every home and business in Britain at the same time, the Electricity System Operator (ESO) – which is responsible for ensuring there is enough power to meet demand – could instruct the companies which operator the local power network to reduce electricity demand through emergency power cuts.
Before this happens, there are a number of tools the ESO can use. These include increasing the amount of power being generated, asking large industrial customers to reduce the amount of power they’re consuming and paying customers – through their energy supplier – to use less energy at certain times.
Emergency power cuts are only implemented to protect the electricity network from more damage, which would be more disruptive for a much longer period. They are a last resort and wouldn’t affect everyone at the same time.
In addition, unplanned power cuts are a possibility every winter as these are often caused by unforeseen events such as extreme weather. In the case of this type of power cut, your local distribution network operator (DNO) will do their best to repair the issue and restore power as quickly as possible.
Power cuts can be due to a number of causes, and can be planned or unplanned.
These are usually caused by something unforeseen, such as extreme weather conditions.
These may be due to essential maintenance being carried out on the network by your local distribution network operator (DNO). DNOs own and maintain the power lines that connect to homes or businesses. If you live in the Midlands, South West England or South Wales, your DNO is National Grid. If you live elsewhere, you’ll have a different DNO.
Emergency planned power cuts – also known as rota load disconnections – can be implemented when the demand for electricity is greater than the levels that are available from electricity generators. These planned, controlled and temporary power cuts help to protect the integrity of the whole electricity system by temporarily disconnecting a small percentage of the network. In the case of rota load disconnections, the Electricity System Operator (ESO) would legally instruct DNOs to disconnect power supplies, following established procedures set out by the government in the Electricity Supply Emergency Code.
Planned power cuts may be due to essential maintenance being carried out on the network by your local distribution network operator (DNO). DNOs own and maintain the power lines that connect to homes or businesses. If you live in the Midlands, South West England or South Wales, your DNO is National Grid. If you live elsewhere, you’ll have a different DNO.
Unplanned power cuts are usually caused by something unforeseen, such as extreme weather conditions.
The energy networks can help if you have additional needs because of your medical or personal circumstances – just make sure you sign up to your local network operator’s Priority Services Register. This is a free service and each network operator keeps their own register.
Power cuts will also affect equipment such as stair lifts, bath hoists and adjustable beds. Make sure that any essential medical equipment has a battery back-up. This means you can keep using it, even if the power is out. Backup power supplies and associated equipment should be regularly checked and maintained by a competent person. If you're concerned, you should speak to your medical equipment or health care provider as soon as possible.
If you have a stair lift, check it has a manual release handle, you can use this to return the lift to the ground floor if you have a power cut.
Balancing the supply and demand of electricity is managed by the Electricity System Operator (ESO). Their analysts are constantly forecasting how much electricity we need, and their control room experts are in continuous communication with the electricity market.
If supply and demand can’t be matched through normal mechanisms, the ESO will send a formal message to the electricity market. These messages are sometimes referred to as system warnings or system notices. They’re a routine way that ESO communicates to the market and operates the system, and they don’t mean that electricity supply is at risk. It’s simply telling the market what is needed.
It’s important to note that the ESO does not disconnect the power in the event of a planned power cut. This is done by the distribution network operators (DNOs), who own and maintain the power lines that connect to homes or businesses.
There are two main types of notices:
If the normal safety margin for operating the system is not as big as the ESO would like, and they can’t address it through the usual mechanisms, then they would consider issuing an EMN. This doesn’t mean there isn’t enough electricity to meet demand; it just means ESO would like a larger cushion of spare capacity, and wants the market to provide it.
If the safety margins for operating the system are reduced, a CMN might also be issued as an alert to providers in the capacity market. CMNs are triggered automatically four hours ahead of real-time, based on specific industry data about the system’s safety margin.
While EMNs and CMNs are based on the same fundamental data – for example generator availability and demand forecasts – they are issued based on different thresholds and lead times.
This means that EMNs and CMNs can sometimes be issued and active at different times. That’s normal – they are different signals being communicated to different parts of the electricity market.
Capacity market notices (CMNs) are triggered by an automated system. Their forecasts are issued automatically and are only based on information in the public domain. An improvement in generation availability in the hours after the automatic CMN has been issued will lead to the notice being withdrawn.
The Demand Flexibility Service allows energy suppliers to reward their customers for reducing their electricity use when demand is at its highest, therefore helping to balance the country’s supply and demand of electricity.