What is a ‘Rolling Blackout’?

The recent media focus on ‘rolling blackouts’ as a possible means of maintaining electricity supplies this winter has caused concern for many.

This is a low possibility and last resort for managing the electricity system in the unlikely event that the UK’s generating capacity cannot meet all demand.

What is a ‘rolling blackout’?

‘Rolling blackouts’ or Rota Load Disconnection events, are a way of describing a controlled rota of short-term electricity supply disconnections. Different ‘blocks’ of customers are disconnected at staggered times to reduce the demands on the electricity network and ensure that all customers receive an equal share of available capacity. These disconnections are based on 3 hour periods, and the number of periods depend on the rota schedule active at the time. If the emergency level increases then the number and frequency of disconnection periods would also increase.

Is this definitely going to happen?

No, this is a last resort. The challenges of global gas supply, for electricity generation, means the network will operate with smaller margins than it would normally during winter. As such, electricity system operators have an obligation to be prepared for any eventuality, no matter how unlikely.

In order to try and protect supplies to domestic customers, there are other methods available first to reduce demand should it become necessary. These methods include government instructions to industrial and commercial customers to reduce their electricity consumption, or the use of voltage reduction.

The present forecast is that there will be sufficient reserves to manage through the winter, but there is always the chance of a combination of extreme factors occurring that simply cannot be forecast.

Will we know in advance?

In the unlikely event that this is implemented, the electricity system operators will do their best to forecast the need for disconnections and issue details of the schedule for each following day. It is likely that there would be extensive national media coverage, in addition to our own communication channels.

Where you are signed up to our Priority Services Register then we would make all efforts to notify you as soon as we are aware that one of these events is to be implemented.

I am a vulnerable customer, can you offer me more help?

If you believe that you are especially vulnerable from an electricity supply interruption, then you can check if you qualify to sign up to our Priority Services Register. This ensures that we can try and provide the additional help and support that our more vulnerable customers need in these unlikely situations.