A power cut in north Lancashire left approximately 63,000 properties without power on June 21st 2017, while a number of flights had to be delayed at Edinburgh Airport shortly after on June 28th due to a power-related problem. These and many other power outages will be something that people across the UK will need to put up with unfortunately, due to the fact that over 170,000km of electricity cables need to be maintained throughout the nation now.
Power cuts can cost businesses dearly though, as commercial gas supplier Flogas details in this guide:
Reasons why power cuts occur
People will be subjected to power cuts for a wide number of reasons. Harsh weather conditions are one – in January 2015, one million people across North Eastern Scotland were left without power as a storm struck the power lines. Similarly, in Florida following Hurricane Irma’s path of destruction, 4.4 million homeowners were left without electricity.
Also contributing to the problem is the fact that there’s a growing gap in the UK’s electricity supply. Jenifer Baxter, Head of Energy and Environment at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers said, “Under current [government] policy, it is almost impossible for UK electricity demand to be met by 2025,”. Alongside proposals to phase out coal-fired power and a lack of investment in national grid infrastructures, power failures and blackouts are expected to become more common.
Sometimes, it is rather unusual why a power cut will happen. For instance, 1,000 homes in Somerset were once left without electricity when a squirrel bit through power cables in the region. It can depend on where you live as to how many times you’ll be left without power too – the South of England suffered the most blackouts in the UK in 2015 with 124 incidents.
A bit of good news is that many of the UK’s power failures will only last for a few hours at any one time. However, there are instances of blackouts stretching across days and even weeks. Regardless of their cause or duration though, they are inconvenient and can have detrimental effects on businesses.
Weighing up the cost of a power cut on a business
On average, a power cut somewhere in the UK will last for 50 minutes. This may not sound a lot but with a single hour of downtime estimated to cost a small business £800 – it could be very damaging.
While larger businesses will likely incur higher losses due to a power cut, they are also expected to recover at a faster rate. When Google lost their power in 2013 though, they experienced losses of £100,000 per minute!
There are a variety of reasons why these losses will happen. Not having access to electricity can mean that employees cannot communicate with customers and are therefore losing out on potential sales. For an e-commerce company, they do not have access to their website to monitor sales and client requests. There is also the risk of losing unsaved material which can be costly to small businesses.
Reduce the damage caused by a power cut
Controlling how a power cut happens is very likely to be out of our hands. However, there are certain steps that small businesses can take to reduce the damage caused from a power cut.
Invest in a UPS (uninterruptible power supply) to begin with. This allows a computer to keep running for a short while when the mains electricity has gone off. Often, a warning sign will come up to alert the user that a power cut has occurred – giving them time to save any unfinished work.
Buy a standalone generator as well. This can be used in emergencies for when power runs out, as it does not rely on the working of the grid electricity. If you are considering going off-grid with your power supplies, it is worth considering gas cylinders too.
It will also be worthwhile drawing up a contingency plan at your company. This could be a way to inform customers that your power supply is down and you won’t be able to answer queries – this may be on a mobile device.