Shenton Group

Fears over future power shortages highlights requirement for standby power

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Courtesy of Shenton Group

Britain is facing a future where energy prices will escalate and energy sources become insecure and unreliable according to a recent report from the industry regulator OfgemIt stated that a combination of a global financial crisis, tough environmental targets, increasing gas import dependency and the closure of ageing power stations are to blame for rising costs and uncertain supplies.

There is little doubt that Britain faces a future of power blackouts and massive economic disruption unless urgent action is taken to head off a looming energy supply crunch. It is predicted that the Government will almost certainly fail to meet its renewable energy targets and even if the UK does cut its energy demand in half by 2050, the country will still need 16 new power plants between now and 2030 and an additional four by 2050.

Even now, despite reassurances from the National Grid that it is capable of meeting demand, recent events indicate this is no longer the case. The prospect of blackouts affecting, in particular, sophisticated IT and telephone systems, has put pressure on business and energy managers to implement an effective and robust strategy to ensure their business can continue to function when power cuts occur. The potential catastrophe caused by a power cut to a company’s ability to function has resulted in a need for standby power.  Nowadays, it is not only large companies that need standby power systems, SMEs including care homes, shops, business premises and filling stations all need to be prepared for the inevitable power cut.

Here are a few important facts and figures about power outages:


  • Power Failure is responsible for 28% of computer system breakdowns
  • Over one third of companies take more than a day to recover from the disruption caused by a power failure. 10% take more than a week
  • Because of a power failure, 33% of companies lose between £10 000 and £250 000, 20% lose between £250000 and £1 million, 15% lose over £1 million
  • Following a power failure it can take up to 48 hours to reconfigure a network system.  
  • 90% of all companies that experience a computer disaster and don't have a survival plan go out of business within 18 months (Source: Price Waterhouse)

Most companies understand the need for power management systems and many have installed UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) systems believing that a UPS will solve the problem of power cuts.  However as the problems with the country’s energy supply continue to multiply, power cuts are no longer lasting minutes but often hours and days at a time.

Typically, a UPS has just a 10-20 minute battery life. Therefore many companies realise that a UPS alone is insufficient to enable them to keep their business running if a power cut last longer than a few minutes.  With more frequent and longer lasting power cuts occurring many companies realise that they need to support their UPS with a generator.

Standby Power Combined With UPS

Standby generators provide additional backup to a conventional UPS.   Installed as part of a SPS (standby power system) the generator takes over before the batteries of the UPS run out, smoothly transferring the network over as part of the SPS. When mains power returns, the generator will automatically switch back to conventional power after ensuring the power will remain constant.   

Emergency Callout Generator Service

A contract with an emergency callout generator company negates the need for large capital expenditure and ongoing maintenance costs.  Instead a company provides a standby generator on an emergency callout basis.

Emergency generator call-out companies are capable of supporting any site that has either single or 3-phase mains electrical supply. Companies providing this service have a 24/7-control room, which arranges for a standby generator to be despatched from a local depot when a call is received from a subscriber. Service levels are based on a target delivery time of 1 hour and a guaranteed commitment to a maximum of three hours

Our electricity comes from a mix of power stations comprising of mostly gas but also coal-fired and nuclear.  During the next six years, 40 percent of this ageing fleet will have to be shut down due to environmental targets, safety or because they have become obsolete.  As talks are still continuing between the Government and energy providers as to where and when replacement power stations will be built, the problems of having an antiquated power system will manifest in more frequent and longer power cuts.  Businesses can no longer afford to drag their feet on putting in a robust power support system, they must act now to avoid power cuts having a derogatory affect on their livelihoods.

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