Power reliability is already a serious issue for many businesses

Over 75% of IT users have suffered power issues in the past twelve months according to a recent industry survey.

The research questioned 2000 UK based IT and data centre professionals regarding the current state of the supply energy industry in the United Kingdom. The survey also revealed the level of concern business users have over the reliability of power in the future – with 78% of those questioned agreeing with the statement: ‘The reliability of power in the UK is going to become a major concern for my business in the next ten years’.

Recent energy forecasts, produced by Research and Markets, have predicted that the UK will generate 5.18% of developed markets energy production by 2014 and may even offer the UK a modest energy surplus. However, judging by the opinions of those questioned, the current situation is rather different, with a significant gap between energy generation and delivering power to UK businesses.

Working in the UPS industry every day, I see the vital need for energy security and our recent survey demonstrates that improvements are still required. As a nation, we should be able to produce enough power to supply every business 24/7/365, but it simply doesn’t work like that.

The national grid doesn’t connect every energy user together, so while one area could be running a surplus, unconnected neighbouring regions are facing brown outs and even black outs.

Furthermore, when there’s a national surge in demand or a issue with production, businesses are the first to be affected. 2010 saw companies such as British Sugar and Vauxhall’s car plant at Ellesmere Port having their power cut off. This should not be happening today in the UK.

The views of those questioned reflect statements made by energy regulator Ofgem, who earlier this year claimed Britain faces severe power cuts over the next decade unless government ministers take greater control of the privatised gas and electricity network.

The gloomy assessment of the UK’s power stations, claimed there were serious doubts that the current system, deriving from privatisation 20 years ago, will be able to cope with the increased demand.

Businesses are faced everyday with rising costs and increased legislation relating to energy but what they aren’t seeing is the investment in the next stage of infrastructure to provide affordable energy for the future. OEMs are doing everything they can to reduce power consumption and every new product boast’s energy efficiency as a key selling point but this isn’t enough.

Many business leaders believe that government investment in new energy generation is insufficient, and as the survey demonstrates, those questioned are deeply concerned about how they are going to afford to run their businesses in the years to come.

The answer can not only come from efficient equipment, it has to also come from the energy suppliers. At the moment, businesses are not seeing the shift towards renewable and sustainable energy happening quick enough – something has to change.

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David Renton is MD for Uninterruptible Power Supplies Limited (UPSL), a Kohler company. Formerly COO for leading data centre provider Global Switch, Renton has a wealth of experience from his extensive career within the UPS and process control industry, including Honeywell and Chloride Group. Whilst at Chloride Group, David led the development and remarkable growth of the sales and service operations throughout Europe and Asia Pacific. David has been tasked with leading UPSL through its strategic international expansion programme announced in June last year.

  • alauda

    This article is wrong in so many different ways, it is difficult to know where to start.

    “Recent energy forecasts, produced by Research and Markets, have predicted that the UK will generate 5.18% of developed markets energy production by 2014 and may even offer the UK a modest energy surplus.”

    Is it me, or does this just not make sense?

    “The national grid doesn’t connect every energy user together, so while one area could be running a surplus, unconnected neighbouring regions are facing brown outs and even black outs.”

    Well in fact all users are connected together by the electricity network, as anyone with the most basic understanding of the energy industry would know.  Local power cuts are caused by local network faults, not a shortage of generation in a particular area.

    “Furthermore, when there’s a national surge in demand or a issue with production, businesses are the first to be affected. 2010 saw companies such as British Sugar and Vauxhall’s car plant at Ellesmere Port having their power cut off. This should not be happening today in the UK.”

    As above, these power cuts will be to do with local network faults, not national surges in demand or generation issues.  Businesses don’t get affected first but at the same time as everyone else, unless the fault is specifcally on their connection (and large industry will sometimes pay for less secure connections because they are cheaper).  Everywhere in the world gets power cuts.  Where is his evidence that we get more in the UK than other countries currently?  I’m pretty sure we actually have rather fewer.

    “The views of those questioned reflect statements made by energy regulator Ofgem, who earlier this year claimed Britain faces severe power cuts over the next decade unless government ministers take greater control of the privatised gas and electricity network.
    “The gloomy assessment of the UK’s power stations, claimed there were serious doubts that the current system, deriving from privatisation 20 years ago, will be able to cope with the increased demand.”

    This appears to be lifted from an Independent story rather than what Ofgem actually said.
    Here’s the Indpendent story (check first two paragraphs): http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/ofgem-only-state-intervention-can-prevent-power-cuts-1889030.htmlAnd here's what Ofgem actually said (much more nuanced statement that the market needs to be adapted to meet future challenges):
    And here’s what Ofgem actually said (much more nuanced statement that the market needs to be adapted to meet future challenges):
    http://www.ofgem.gov.uk/Media/PressRel/Documents1/Ofgem%20-%20Discovery%20phase%20II%20Draft%20v15.pdf

    There’s an important debate to be had about the future of energy with so many older power stations closing in the next couple of decades, but this article doesn’t make a contribution.  It’s just muddled and wrong.  Why didn’t he just put, “Wanna buy a UPS system, anyone?” instead.

  • ALice

    As someone who works in the energy industry I find myself offering support for the above article. Although there are some elements which are not my opinion, there is categorically nothing wrong with what is written. I suggest the commentator below does a little more research before casting such dispersions. Also, check out this article from the Guardian which supports some of what the author is claiming: http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2010/jan/07/gas-rationing-national-grid-factories    

  • Louise Ellis

    “Recent energy forecasts, produced by Research and Markets, have predicted that the UK will generate 5.18% of developed markets energy production by 2014 and may even offer the UK a modest energy surplus.”Is it me, or does this just not make sense?”
    That makes perfect sense to me!