Thursday 7 April 2016

Losing Energy

The question of Energy Policy seems to have minor interest in our politics and government, perhaps because we think we can leave it to the "experts", or rather the commercial and political interests.  This is not working well.

The link is a long post on the confused energy policies of the UK and in particular Scotland.  Euan Mearns considers the degree of risk of blackouts, notably the prolonged ones where they are so extensive and complex to deal with.

Below are his suggestions for the consequences based on what has happened elsewhere in recent years.


In the scenarios described below it is assumed that hospitals, emergency services and financial services have emergency backup generation. It is possible that some of the failed services I describe may also be supported by diesel generators.

Heat and light

All electric lighting will fail. In Scotland in January it gets light around 9 a.m. and dark again around 3 p.m. Without candles or a battery torch, many will experience total darkness for 18 hours a day. Old people will fall and break arms and hips.

Most heating in Scotland uses natural gas boilers, but these require electricity to function. And so most homes will be left without heat and will equilibrate to outside temperatures which are typically between +5 and -5˚C in January. Those unable to don good clothing or stay in bed will freeze.

Its possible that a gas hob may work, although gas supplies may fail without electricity.

With hard frost, pipes will freeze and burst.


Street lighting and traffic lights fail. A spate of minor accidents leaves traffic in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen at a standstill.

Within hours, those cars that were running on empty run out of fuel and the passengers begin to freeze. It is not possible to refuel since petrol pumps run on electricity.

Hundreds are stranded in lifts.

All trains come to a standstill since even the diesel lines have electric signals. Thousands are stranded in transit at night fall and temperatures in the trains begin to equilibrate with temperatures outside.

All flights leaving Scottish airports are cancelled, all inbound flights are diverted to Newcastle and Manchester.


All internet, television and radio communications are down. Forget about the battery in your laptop since your WiFi router is switched off as is your local BT telecoms exchange.

There is absolutely no information available about what is going on. Most will think this is a power cut and do not realise that it may take over a week to restore power. Anxiety after 12 hours gives way to fear after 24 hours.

No email, no iPhone, no Facebook, no Twitter, no Energy Matters, no news papers. Just creeping cold.


People can’t get to work but there is no work to go to. Most work places are closed.

Some shops are open, but food stores will eventually run out of food. Refrigerated and frozen food is moved outside to the freezing conditions where members of the public simply help themselves.

Electronic payment is down. All transactions are by cash or cheque.


With all alarms off, petty criminals begin looting.

Organised gangs take advantage by raiding jeweller’s shops and a couple of banks are raided in Glasgow.

But the main security risk lies with the old and infirm who are deprived of social and medical care during the most adverse of circumstances.

Some simple lessons

Keep a small stash of cash at home and make sure you have a cheque book. Apple pay and a contactless card just won’t cut the mustard. Food and drink will still be available if you can pay for it.

Keep a supply of petrol or diesel in your garage (but note legal restrictions and requirements). The ability to drive to England could become a priceless commodity. Petrol pumps will not be working.

Have two or three battery torches to hand with a supply of batteries. These help you find your candles and matches.

Have a supply of utility candles to provide light and warmth + matches.
Buy a wood burner and have an ample supply of wood, or….

Have a means to keep warm in ÂșC conditions. Hat, gloves, two fleeces, long johns, two pairs of woolly socks and a good duvet or sleeping bag.

Be a good neighbour.

We live in a society grown accustomed to electricity 24/7. Years ago, when power cuts were more common in the UK, many households would have equipment to hand.

A little preparation may mean the difference between surviving in relative comfort and falling down stairs in pitch black.


Wait and see, or rather not see.


  1. One thing I noticed when I moved from Edinburgh to Lincolnshire in 1979 was that if the traffic lights went out in Edinburgh the traffic flowed better. In Grimsby it would grind to a halt. These days, it seems that the motoring drones are so legislated against that they've lost any driving ability; if the lights are out, they don't know what to do.

  2. That reminds me - stock up on wood for next winter. We also have a LED torches, candles and two portable gas rings with a supply of gas cartridges.

    Ah - I forgot something. We don't have the address of our MP.

  3. A bilateral deal with Russia would help. Oh, not permitted by the EUSSR!