Winter is coming

I’ve written about this before. UK power generation policy is broken, and the result is that our safety margin for electricity supply at times of high demand keeps getting thinner. The FT picked this story up today – so if you don’t believe me, perhaps you’ll believe them. What’s certain is that if you wait until November – or worse, until there are actual black- or brown-outs – to arrange backup power generation capacity, it will be too late.

Get around a table now and ask each other what you’d do if you lost power for an hour, a day, a week. Then ask what you’d do if your electricity prices trebled instead for the same periods. Look into standby generation suppliers, but remember that their capacity is also limited and that this political mess is their profit opportunity.

Consider – if your business can accommodate it – allowing staff to work from home. Domestic supplies are far less likely to be interrupted – remember, businesses don’t vote. Of course this means building and testing remote working solutions now, not rocking up to your IT team at a moment’s notice.

If your mission-critical servers are on your premises, think about putting them into a datacentre – or putting their functions into the cloud. Datacentres will have put more thought and more investment into power continuity than you have – although that’s no guarantee of success – and will rank higher in the pecking order for scarce power if it comes to the worst case scenario of rolling blackouts.

There’s not much we can do to change the fundamental problem. Building new power stations takes time and money, and it’s much harder to get the investment when our energy policy keeps trying to square the ‘cheap’ and ‘green’ circles. Apart from planning for shortages and price spikes, the best thing we can do is mitigate our energy usage in the first place. Not terribly useful advice if you’re an aluminium smelter, I know, but if all UK business replaced their ageing desktop kit with modern energy-efficient hardware and moved their servers and services into the cloud, it would make a genuine difference.


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