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Blackout info sent to millions was ‘unrelated’ to energy crisis, say chiefs

The email from UK Power Networks was a ‘requirement’ of Ofgem and does not indicate an increased risk of power cuts

Ruby Lott-Lavigna
1 September 2022, 4.39pm
A woman checks her fuse box during a power outage.
Daria Kulkova / Alamy Stock Photo

Electricity chiefs in the south of England have moved to reassure customers that an email to 8.4 million people warning about possible blackouts was a “routine communication” unconnected to Britain’s looming energy crisis.

In a message seen by openDemocracy, UK Power Networks said it wanted to provide information about how the public “can get extra support in a power cut”.

It comes as the UK phases out oil imports from Russia as a result of its invasion of Ukraine. Energy bills are set to rise steeply at the start of October and a former levelling up minister has warned of the risk of blackouts this winter.

“The electricity networks are 99% reliable but power cuts can happen occasionally for a variety of reasons, including severe weather,” the email from UK Power Networks reads.

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“We are UK Power Networks and it's our job to maintain a safe and reliable supply of electricity in London, the South East and East of England. This means we keep the lights on in your area, regardless of who you pay your electricity bills to.”

Russia today announced it would temporarily suspend its gas supply to Europe, saying it had “completely stopped” the Nordstream 1 pipeline for “preventive work” but denying this was in retaliation to Western sanctions. Conservative leadership frontrunner Liz Truss ruled out energy rationing this winter, despite warnings this could lead to blackouts.

UK Power Networks told openDemocracy it was a requirement of the regulator Ofgem that it sends the email out once a year.

“This is to help customers contact us in an emergency, understand their rights and find out how to register where eligible for free extra support in a power cut for vulnerable customers,” said a spokesperson. “This is a routine communication unrelated to recent news headlines, which we send to all our 8.4 million customers… over a period of several months.”

A similar message mailed out at the start of the pandemic in 2020 sparked a brief panic among customers.

UK Power Networks did not respond to questions about whether the risk of blackouts is considered to be higher in 2022 than previous years.

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