Power cuts in Britain: the battle businesses face

In Britain, the weather is constantly changing.  It can be glorious sunshine one moment and raining the next. This, unfortunately, can cause stress to systems nationwide and potentially cause power outages. For example, Thorpe Park experienced a series a power cuts in July, leaving concerned visitors stuck on rides. Although you would think this was the result of harsh weather conditions, it was in fact due to high levels of heat across the region. Around the same time, there were more than 15 reports of power cuts in 24 hours across Cambridgeshire, which were caused by lightning strikes in the area.

Certain businesses are already prepared to deal with such situations, but the same can’t be said about others. Power cuts aren’t only difficult to deal with when you’re at home, but in a work environment, this can cause lost productivity – can your business afford it?

Here, we take a look at the battle businesses face alongside gas bottle suppliers, Flogas.


A problem faced by the nation

There have been several memorable power cuts in the UK in years gone by. You may be old enough to remember the miners’ strike in 1972, which caused major power issues – leading to a state of emergency being declared. A more recent power event that caused power outage to 40,000 properties was the result of Storm Frank in 2015.

There is more than 17,000km of electricity cables in the UK. This means that there is a lot to contend with to ensure power cuts are kept to a minimum. However, some can’t be prevented.

Below is a list of power cuts that are most common in Britain:

  • Transient fault: lasting only a few seconds. This is a temporary fault, but power is automatically restored.
  • Brownout: reduction in mains power supply that can last for a few days (e.g. lowered light levels) and cause machinery malfunction.
  • Blackout: absolute power loss. As the most severe case of power outage, blackouts are often the most costly and difficult to recover from.

While it’s clear that the type of power cuts can vary, 80% of those between 2003 and 2012 were due to weather – highlighting the importance of advanced preparation.

Damages to your organisation

Businesses across the nation run off power of energy. This means it is crucial to ensure operations remain consistent and don’t put a stop to our productivity. Below, we take a look at how power cuts can actually harm a business.

It doesn’t matter if you experience a significant power cut or a slight delay, you could still lose data. If this is the case, this could have a profound impact on any ongoing campaigns and prove difficult for you to meet deadlines on a range of projects and ultimately meet the requirements of a client. Imagine if all of your work is lost due to such circumstances – you might have to start your work from scratch.

Expect this to last at least a day if you experience a blackout or brownout. This could potentially put a stop to all operations – and will definitely be a cost to you. As your staff are contracted to work (even though power cuts), you will still have to pay them. As well as this, if your business relies on communication by using the internet or phone lines – this could cost you sales.

The cost of downtime will vary between businesses too. Some small businesses state that one hour of no power could cost £800, while, believe it or not, Google lost their power in 2013 and this cost them £100,000 each minute.

There are several reasons for downtime. If your business does not have access to electricity for example, employees will not be able to communicate with customers. If you’re a business that operates as an ecommerce, you won’t be able to monitor online sales and respond to website queries.

The general formula to work out the average cost of downtime per hour is: Employee cost per hour x fraction of employees affected by the power cut x average revenue for each hour x fraction of the revenue that was affected by the outage

Is it worth the risk?

Your priorities will differ from other companies who may experience similar power outages. If your company relies on computers and data, you should look at installing an uninterrupted power supply (UPS) that will allow your devices to run off battery power in the event of a power cut.

Nowadays, it’s common for companies to rely on an internet connection too. This means it could be difficult to cope without one. If you set up a MiFi – which can operate as a WiFi hotspot – your staff will be able to connect to an ad-hoc network which can help you operate when a power cut does strike.

It’s important that you plan ahead. Do this by creating a team or committee that will determine the specific risks to your business — a small IT company will have different points to consider compared to a large factory — and then draw up a detailed process for mitigating these risks.