As businesses are urged to plan for potential winter energy blackouts, Karsons are here to light the way.
The head of the National Grid has warned British households and businesses that blackouts may be imposed between 4pm and 7pm on “really, really cold” winter weekdays if Europe cuts gas exports. With blackouts now becoming a very real potential, major industries including some of the world’s largest banks are dusting down their lockdown contingency plans to guard against possible power outages in London this winter.
Contingency is key and Karsons has been working closely with our client to assist them in “getting their ducks in a row” in the case of energy blackouts. Today, we speak to our Operations Manager, Charan Panesar to share his insight and expertise on the threat of blackouts and how buildings can safeguard against them.
Charan, in your opinion, what is the likelihood of organised blackouts in the city this winter and what are the key driving forces ?
At this moment in time, Western Europe’s supplies of oil and natural gas are under significant strain in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This is contributing massively to a mounting cost of living pressures. In the National Grid Winter Outlook Report, dated 6th October 2022 they warned that in the unlikely event that insufficient gas supply coincides with reduced electricity imports from continental Europe, that they could be forced to implement planned, temporary blackouts to manage demand. In accordance with the Electricity Supply Emergency Code (ESE Code), these are expected to take the form of rolling, three hour disconnections in which consumers in particular localities would be given a day’s notice that they would lose power.
How could organised blackouts affect buildings that don't have contingency plans in place?
It’s quite simple, if you don’t test it do not expect it to work! It is one of the most important but least recognised or even known, back-up plans in the UK and it's recommended that the Black Start tests are carried out at least once a year. A Black Start test plan ensures that the back up power whether that is by UPS or by a generator can power the building throughout the building's life, or even if back-up power is not available it highlights what systems do need consideration for UPS power which will not turn back on once power has failed.
What strategy have Karsons began to implement with their current clients to prepare for potential outages?
Risk mitigation is key in supporting the running of a business. If back up power via a generator or UPS is not a feasible option then it is essential that a Black Building Test Study is carried out. The purpose of the Black Building Test is to validate the operation and performance of the building's electrical system during an electrical power failure, and to highlight any inconsistencies between the operation of the plant and the design intent. The main emphasis of the Black Building Test is to record the operation, performance and integration of life safety systems during an electrical failure/part failure scenario. This shall then allow for further measures to be put in place to manage any critical equipment or facilities.
Could you give an example of a building that Karsons has helped prepare for potential outages and how?
We are currently working closely with the Metrus team to ensure the Black Building test is completed for 100 Pall Mall. The main emphasis of the Black Building Test is to record the operation, performance and integration of life safety systems during an electrical failure/part failure scenario.
The testing will consist of a number of different scenarios under various power configurations. The testing that will be carried out ensures that the UPS backed systems function correctly and as per the load shedding scenario during a power failure, and also that all the various systems restart after mains power restoration without going into alarm or fault mode.
The results of the Black Building Test will be monitored and recorded manually, while the BMS where installed will also record snapshots during the testing.
Here are some of our practical steps that employers can take to minimise the impact are:
Consider adjusting working times, shift patterns or opening hours in order to accommodate a planned blackout. The ability to change working hours on short notice will depend on the wording of the contract, and this may not be possible for some employees who have commitments such as childcare or other caring responsibilities.
Investing in standby generators to maintain power supply for critical equipment or facilities.
Encourage employees to keep their devices fully charged while working in the office or from home, particularly if they have received prior notification of a blackout.
Advise employees on how to use their mobile phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot (assuming they have available data and the mobile phone network isn’t affected by the blackout). Employees may also be able to download or print out key documents in advance to work on without access to the internet.
Ask home working employees who are affected by a blackout to come into the workplace, if the workplace remains unaffected and transport is still running (which should be the case). This may not be possible for some employees who work from home for reasons such as childcare or other caring commitments.
If you’re concerned about the impacts of potential blackouts to your building this winter please do not hesitate to contact our team at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 020 3282 7605.