Press release

Measures to make Britain's power network more resilient planned, after August power outage

Government-backed report into the blackouts in August that affected over 1 million customers in Great Britain, published today.

  • new report published on the power outage of 9 August that affected over 1 million customers across Great Britain
  • government to implement all 10 clear actions in final report to reduce the likelihood of a similar event happening again
  • number of power cuts has shrunk significantly since 1990 alongside a 60% cut in the length of outages

The Energy Emergencies Executive Committee (E3C) has today (3 January) unveiled government-backed plans to strengthen Great Britain’s power network and make it more resilient to outages in future.

Business and Energy Secretary Andrea Leadsom has confirmed that the action plan from today’s report will be implemented in full, to help prevent and manage future power disruption events, ensuring Britain continues to have one of the world’s most reliable electricity systems in the world by:

  • assessing the need for improvements to the governance, monitoring and enforcement processes for large and smaller generators
  • reviewing the pros and cons of requiring National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO) to hold additional back-up generation
  • supporting essential services owners and operators to put in place more robust business continuity plans
  • rolling out new communications processes to ensure the general public receives regular updates during any future disruptions

Today’s E3C report was requested by Ms Leadsom following the power outage of 9 August, which affected over 1 million customers across Great Britain. The report focuses on the areas of highest impact before, during and after the incident.

Power was restored to disconnected customers within 45 minutes, but the knock-on impact to essential services such as rail were felt for several days after.

Business and Energy Secretary Andrea Leadsom said:

The disruption caused to people and businesses by the power cut in August was unacceptable. However, customers can be confident that we have one of the most robust energy systems in the world and today’s report will help us reduce the risks of it happening again and ensure our energy sector is better prepared in the future.

Great Britain has a diverse energy supply and a strong security of supply, which has helped towards halving the number of power outages since 1990. As the UK works to eradicate its contribution to climate change by 2050, the actions in this report will form part of a wider package of work already underway across government and industry to ensure the UK’s energy system remains resilient as we transition to clean and affordable energy.

The E3C is made up of representatives from across industry and government including BEIS, Ofgem, the National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO), Distribution and transmission network operators, generators and suppliers and gas distribution network operators.

The E3C will take the actions set out in this report, along with the findings from Ofgem’s investigation, to drive forward changes across the sector. The committee will provide quarterly updates to government and Ofgem.

Alongside the E3C report, Ofgem has today published the conclusions of its own investigations into the incident last August, focusing on lessons learnt for the energy sector and voluntary payments totalling £10.5 million for companies involved in the power outages.

The Ofgem report focuses on the performance of the ESO, National Grid Electricity Transmission, Distribution Network Operators (DNOs) in England and Wales and the 2 generators involved. The Office of Rail and Road has also published findings into the impact on train services.

Notes to editors

1. Read the final E3C report.

2. The E3C is a partnership between government, the regulator and industry, which co-ordinates resilience planning across the energy industry. It facilitates a joined-up approach to emergency response and recovery, identifying risks and processes to manage the impact of emergencies affecting the supply of gas and/or electricity to consumers in Great Britain.

3. The power outages were due to the loss of a mix of generation including an offshore wind farm operated by Hornsea One and a gas power station operated by RWE.

4. Ofgem’s State of the Energy Market 2019 report states that the number of power interruptions has fallen by around 50% since 1990, whilst the length of those interruptions has fallen by around 60%

5. The 10 recommendations proposed by the E3C report are as follows:

  • Action 1: The E3C, in collaboration with the relevant trade associations and generators, to disseminate lessons learnt to the wider electricity connected generation community
  • Action 2: The ESO, in consultation with large generators and transmission owners, should review and improve compliance testing and modelling processes for new and modified generation connections, particularly for complex systems
  • Action 3: The E3C, in collaboration with relevant trade associations and the DCRP, to review embedded generators’ understanding of, and compliance with, the Distribution Code; and assess whether the current governance, monitoring and enforcement processes are fit for purpose
  • Action 4: The ESO and DNOs through the Energy Networks Association (ENA), should review the timescales for the Accelerated Loss of Mains Change Programme, and consider widening its scope to include distributed generation that unexpectedly disconnected or de-loaded on 9 August
  • Action 5: The ESO, in consultation with industry, should undertake a review of the Security and Quality of Supply Standard (SQSS) requirements for holding reserve, response and system inertia
  • Action 6: The E3C, through the DNOs and the ENA, to undertake a fundamental review of the Low Frequency Demand Disconnection (LFDD) scheme including its application and administration by the DNOs, and present options for short- and long-term improvements
  • Action 7: E3C to scope and define what an essential service is, and better understand their capacity to deal effectively with power disruptions
  • Action 8: E3C to develop and deliver guidance for essential services owners/operators, to support contingency, continuity and resilience planning
  • Action 9: E3C, through the Communications Task Group (CTG), to develop and test a comprehensive communications strategy for use by industry and government
  • Action 10: E3C, through the CTG, to develop and test revised operational protocols and frameworks for communications between wider industry during incident response scenarios
Published 3 January 2020