Written by Claire Wych
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As a child there was always a box of emergency candles kept under the sink, ready for the odd occasion when a power cut struck. In the cosy living room of our little cottage my sisters and I would huddle around the light of the fire, the flickering candlelight playing across our excited faces; it always seemed like quite the adventure!
Fast forward 20 years, and as an adult working in the energy industry, the image of power cuts couldn’t be more different. The reality is that power outages cost businesses money, but for many of us this can seem like an abstract concept, after-all, widespread power outage is virtually unheard of in the UK.
So, it was with great interest that I observed several power cuts of various lengths while I was taking a career break to travel through Asia. Here is my favourite anecdote that brought the issue of power outage to life.
Coffee in a power outage
The beautiful beach town of Unawatuna on the south coast of Sri Lanka.
It was still early in the morning when I heard the familiar click of the air con as it shut down. The power had gone out as it did quite often in Sri Lanka, and according to our host, it would be out until early evening. No matter, we were planning a beach day anyway.
I headed to the fanciest breakfast place I could remember in hope that they would have a generator. They didn’t. “Could we have breakfast despite the power outage?” I enquired. The server popped his head into the kitchen. All was ok.
Coffee however was a problem. The only option? Cold-drip.
Was cold-drip on the menu purely to cater for these types of eventualities I wondered?
Eating our breakfast, the ceiling fans cut in and out intermittently like they had a mind of their own, the cell service was patchy and you could forget about wifi.
We were ill prepared, and it was that day when the true inconvenience of a power cut began to hit home. Our camera wasn’t charged, the tablet was only half charged, and the portable battery wasn’t charged. Over the course of the day the batteries on our mobile, tablet and laptop all gave up, by 7pm the only electronic item we had left was an LED torch! After four months of travelling together, God forbid my fiancé and I would have to resort to a conversation to entertain ourselves.
If we were a business, the unthinkable happened that day, a blackout in all senses of the word. No lights, no internet, no phone calls, electronics limited by battery power, no hot water, no hot coffee, no perfectly regulated office environment … no economy.
Whether the cold-drip coffee was added to the menu to take advantage of black outs we’ll never know. If it was, hurrah to them for their creativity!
Yet customers and businesses want, need, demand (!) continuity and reliability.
Thankfully in the UK it is not quite this dire, yet, but the energy industry has a duty to help businesses be more prepared, or more optimistically, even take advantage of the opportunities that are being created by an ever-changing energy system. To do this engagement is key, and we’re here to help.