Shining New Light On Energy Security
Riello UPS has published a comprehensive report on the consequences of an electricity grid failure in the UK, following widely reported power outages that affected almost 50 million people in Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay last month.
The 50-page document explores the most likely causes of such an incident, from the increased threat of extreme weather including flooding or gales knocking out the network infrastructure, to terrorism, industrial accidents, and geomagnetic space weather storms that play havoc with satellite systems.
It also asks whether the shift towards ‘smart’ energy grids heightens our vulnerability to cyber-attacks similar to when Russian hackers shut down 30 substations in Ukraine in December 2015, leaving 250,000 people without electricity.
State-sponsored hackers believed to be the Russian-based Dragonfly group are said to have infiltrated the UK grid on 8 June 2017 – the day of the General Election, and there have been growing fears of an escalating ‘Cyber Cold War’ where countries, including the USA, insert high-grade malware inside energy networks which can be used to turn off entire electricity supplies at a moment’s notice.
The report goes on to examine the process for rebooting the electricity network if a complete system failure ever occurs. Known as a ‘Black Start’, worst-case contingency planning is that it could take up to 5-7 days for power to be fully restored.
Such an incident is likely to be accompanied by Rota Disconnections which ration power by cutting off electricity for blocks of three hours at a time. This was last seen on a wide-scale basis in the UK back in the 1970s, notably during the infamous “Three-Day Week”.
the Blackout report also considers official UK government risk assessments which cite a 1-in-200 chance of the national power grid experiencing a similar complete shutdown within the next five years, and investigates the potentially catastrophic consequences of a world without power - including loss of mobile phone coverage within a couple of hours, transport systems grinding to a halt, hospitals and care homes being overwhelmed with demand as electrical devices stop working, and business being crippled as electronic payment systems go offline.
It highlights the well-known MI5 mantra that the UK is only ever "four meals away from anarchy", and predicts law and order would quickly break down as panic spreads.
Launching the report, Riello UPS General Manager Leo Craig, said:
"We’ve never been as reliant on the internet and interconnectivity, but without the electricity to power this digital world, our whole way of life falls apart at the seams.
"Many will look at the recent blackout across South America and think ‘that could never happen here’. It’s not necessarily complacency, more perhaps the belief that our infrastructure is more robust and that we’ve committed enough resource towards planning for the worst.
"the Blackout report investigates whether these assumptions are true. By thinking the unthinkable, it also poses some critical questions for the Government, the power industry, and wider society, such as whether we’re truly prepared for the ever-changing threats to our electricity supply.”
Download the Blackout report for free from https://www.theblackoutreport.co.uk.