Serious power cut scenario

Serious power cut scenario

Have you ever wondered what the general effects of a long term power cut would be. The Government has recently undertaken an analysis of what would happen if the south-west of England found itself without any power for 2 weeks. The findings are interesting – some consequences are to be expected, others more surprising.

Here is the fictional scenario that officials assessed, according to a report on the exercise obtained by The Telegraph:

1. Storm approaches

In the week of April 22, 2015, the Met Office identifies a significant storm moving in from the Atlantic. Warnings are circulated but there is not deemed sufficient threat to activate COBR, the Government’s major crisis response committee.

2. Storm hits

The evening of April 29 appears a typical spring night, but after midnight wind speeds begin to pick up. By 4am lightning strikes and high winds are “sweeping across Devon and Cornwall”. The South West bears the brunt of the storm damage.

3. Energy networks critically damaged

Key points on the electricity transmission and distribution cable networks are “critically damaged” by the storm, rendering them unable to carry power into the South West. Only one power station in the area, the nuclear plant at Hinkley Point B in Somerset, is operating at the time but this “tripped off supply and shut down safely”, according to the scenario. Two fossil fuel power plants, Indian Queens and Langage, are both shut for planned maintenance when the storm hits and neither has ‘Black Start’ capability to start itself back up.

4. South West is plunged into darkness

At 6.05am, the South West is cut off from all power supplies, with no ‘black start’ capability to re-energise the network and provide even partial supplies. “Around two million properties are now without power,” the scenario envisages. A map shows Devon, Cornwall, Dorset, Somerset and parts of Wiltshire are all affected.

5. The rest of Britain also battles storm damage

The rest of the UK’s high-voltage electricity transmission networks survive intact, so no other power plants trip off supply. But lower-voltage distribution networks do suffer “extensive damage”, particuarly to overhead lines. As a result there is “a widespread patchwork of power cuts across England and Wales” with about five per cent of consumers experiencing early morning power cuts. Urban areas, where more cables are buried underground, are largely unaffected. London and the South East are barely affected.

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