Should businesses be preparing for Winter blackouts?

Earlier this week, National Grid considered implementing its Demand Flexibility Service for the first time in a bid to avert blackouts. Although the scheme, which would have seen certain households be paid if they turned off products during certain hours, did not take place this week, it marked a clear reminder that this winter could be characterised by energy shortages which could impact both households and businesses.

Countries across Europe are preparing for a long winter, with EU member states agreeing to 15% reductions in gas usage, resulting in Governments running campaigns to encourage people to switch off lights and turn down thermostats, and businesses across Europe are also being urged to cut their energy usage.

The UK has very limited gas storage compared to our continental neighbours, but despite the UK being reliant on gas imports during the winter months, the Government has not brought in targets or guidelines for energy usage reductions. Instead, the Government has resolutely insisted that there is nothing to worry about. Throughout the summer, cabinet ministers pledged that there would be no need for energy rationing and that businesses and households do not need to prepare for blackouts as the UK has a “highly secure and diverse gas and electricity system.” This is despite successive government leaks making it clear that blackouts are being actively prepared for.

National Grid has warned that three-hour power outages could become regular occurrences in January if the UK faces energy supply shortages, whilst the Government is scenario planning for load balancing and energy rationing under its Programme Yarrow, all of which could impact the functions of businesses this winter, with only critical national infrastructure being protected. This could lead to many businesses being forced to cease operations during government-orchestrated outages.

The lack of clear communication from government leaves businesses in a quandary; unsure of how they would be impacted by an outage, or whether they might qualify for exemption. However, given the significant impact that outages would have on business operations, now is the time for them to monitor the situation, to scenario plan, and to engage with government to limit the impact on their business. Failure to act now could have severe consequences.

FleishmanHillard’s Public Affairs and Crisis teams are supporting clients in understanding the likelihood of an energy outage, how they can communicate with stakeholders and scenario-plan for an outage, and how they can engage with government to make the case for exemption of their business. 

Our services include:  

  • Intelligence and Risk Report – A one-off document detailing the potential impact for your business.
  • Political Monitoring – Regular updates on political developments regarding restrictions.
  • Stakeholder and decision maker mapping – Determining who will have influence over how your business is impacted.
  • Message development – A messaging workshop to create compelling and persuasive narrative to convey to government.
  • Engagement with Government – Helping your business run a programme of government engagement to have your voice heard by decision-makers.
  • Issue preparedness and response – Our crisis comms experts can help ensure you are well-prepared to communicate the impact of any blackout to all stakeholders and key audiences.

If you have any questions related to this topic, please get in touch with [email protected] and [email protected].

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