The National Grid power outage last week caused all kinds of problems for commuters, businesses and even hospitals. During the worst blackout seen in the UK in over a decade, extensive travel disruption was caused on our railways and roads and at our airports with around one million homes left without power too.

Rather than being caught out in a power outage, there are some steps that can be taken to ensure you remain operational even on rare occasions when there is a power cut.

What happened to the National Grid on Friday 9th August?

Two of the UK’s power plants, Little Barford a gas-fired power plant in Bedfordshire and a wind farm in Hornsea, both went off the network causing a huge deficit for the National Grid as collectively these two plants account for 5% of the UK’s power needs.* This resulted in power being cut off to a significant portion of the population in order to safeguard the rest of the network, leaving around one million people affected.

Backup electricity providers such as battery operators, small scale power plants and even supermarkets are called upon during unplanned outages, but due to the scale of the problems on this occasion, these unconventional backup generators could prevent parts of the grid from shutting down.

The National Grid has since said the system did what it was supposed to do when such rare circumstances arise, by protecting against more widespread disruption by cutting power in a smaller area they were able to restore power within 15 minutes and then their Distribution Network Operators (DNOs), who are supplied by the National Grid, had their customers back online in 45 minutes.

What was the impact?

Travel disruption was massive, as commuters attempted to make their way home in rush hour when the issue struck around 5 pm, leaving many of them stranded without a way home.

At King’s Cross, all trains were suspended for several hours and some trains were left stranded on the tracks as the power supply disappeared and despite the power then coming back on, drivers were unable to restart them with the systems having shut down completely, meaning a technician was then required to restart them.

  • 300,000 people in the South East were left without power
  • 500,000 in the South West, Midlands and Wales also impacted
  • Around 130,000 in the North of England were also affected

Figures sourced from –

Perhaps the most alarming story came from Ipswich, where the hospital suffered a blackout when the emergency backup power generator failed to kick in during a power cut.

Fortunately, it only impacted outpatients, x-ray and scanning equipment at around 5 pm during the nationwide 15-minute outage and the ITU and A&E departments were not disrupted.

passengers waiting at station for emergency backup power solution

An emergency backup system offers protection

After seeing the widespread impact of the National Grid outage, many businesses from various sectors and industries will be looking at their contingency plans for when there is a power outage. Having emergency backup power can protect you from any damage and inconvenience that can be caused by power cuts as well as surges, spikes and voltage level drops to protect your machinery, computers and equipment and ensure you remain operational.

The UK has one of the most reliable energy networks in the world and power outages of this scale are rare, but no matter which sector you operate in, whether that be Healthcare, Government, Manufacturing, or Telecoms, backup power solutions can be essential in your hour of need. Even if you operate on a tight budget, a simple and affordable solution like Power Call is a subscription worth having to ensure you will have power within the hour!

Ensure your Backup Power Supply is maintained

The Ipswich hospital story highlights the importance of ensuring your backup power supply is looked after and maintained on a regular basis. There was nothing to suggest that their generator wasn’t looked after, as Ipswich Hospital stated that it was the ‘unit’s circuit breaker that had failed’** and that all the emergency generators had worked, however, it does highlight the importance of keeping a maintenance contract. When you need to turn to your backup power supply, it is imperative that it is in good working order ready to deliver you power in your moment of need, or you may as well not have one at all.

Have you got an emergency backup power supply?

Power supplies should be protected not only during a blackout such as the National Grid outage but at all times from any kind of electrical issue. Smaller power cuts are more common than you think, with more than 23 million minor ones every single year, so a constant safety net can give you that peace of mind.

An emergency generator is perfect:

  • If you are running a care home, the residents can continue as normal even if there is a power issue.
  • If you run a hotel or leisure complex, your paying customers remain unaware of any energy problems.
  • Businesses that use computer systems or machinery can be particularly vulnerable to electrical faults, so it is in your best interest to put protective steps in place.

If you would like to review your backup power solutions and require some advice about best practices and finding an energy-efficient and cost-effective solution then contact Shenton Group.


Power station and pylons

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