Energy Watchdog Ofgem Demands Answers After Major UK Power Outage

10 August 2019, 07:44 | Updated: 10 August 2019, 10:36

Passengers queueing outside Kings Cross station in London after power cut left services suspended for several hours
Passengers queueing outside Kings Cross station in London after power cut left services suspended for several hours. Picture: PA

Energy watchdog Ofgem has demanded an urgent report from National Grid after a major power cut caused travel chaos and cut electricity for almost one million people in England and Wales.

More than 900,000 people had power restored following backouts that began at rush hour on Friday afternoon after what the National Grid Electricity System Operator said were issues with two generators.

The power cut stopped traffic lights from working, plunged Newcastle Airport into darkness, affected Ipswich Hospital and caused huge disruption on the railways during the busy end-of-the-week commute.

Ofgem said it was asking for an "urgent detailed report" from the National Grid "so we can understand what went wrong and decide what further steps need to be taken."

"This could include enforcement action."

Commuters at Clapham Junction pull out their phones as major power outage plunges the station into darkness
Commuters at Clapham Junction pull out their phones as major power outage plunges the station into darkness. Picture: PA

At Ipswich Hospital, a back-up generator failed to start when the power outage occurred.

A spokesperson said: "There were some issues with regard to our outpatient areas and the generator that provides cover."

They said that other generators "kicked in" as necessary, and "patients were kept safe and cared for throughout."

The issue only lasted for about 15 minutes.

On the trains, and Kings Cross station in London was shut down amid "apocalyptic" scenes, with the first train to run out of the station late in the evening.

Newcastle Airport was also plunged into darkness during the major power cut.

A Network Rail spokesperson said: "There was a huge power surge on the national grid this evening which means we lost power to all our signalling over a wide area, including the Newport, Gloucester, Ashford, Bristol, Eastbourne, Hastings, Three Bridges and Exeter areas.

"All trains were stopped while our back-up signalling system started up."

National Grid is blaming two failed generators for a power cut that affected almost one million people
National Grid is blaming two failed generators for a power cut that affected almost one million people. Picture: Getty

A National Grid Electricity System Operator spokesperson said: "We appreciate the disruption caused by yesterday’s power outage and investigations have continued overnight to better understand the situation.

"As the Electricity System Operator we do not generate power directly, but use the power made available by the industry to manage the system and balance supply and demand.

"The root cause of yesterday’s issue was not with our system but was a rare and unusual event, the almost simultaneous loss of two large generators, one gas and one offshore wind, at 16.54pm.

"We are still working with the generators to understand what caused the generation to be lost."

The statement added that other generators that responded to the loss was insufficient to cope with the scale of the power outage.

"The other generators on the network responded to the loss by increasing their output as expected.

"However due to the scale of the generation losses this was not sufficient, and to protect the network and ensure restoration to normal operation could be completed as quickly as possible, a backup protection system was triggered which disconnects selected demand across GB."

They concluded: "We appreciate the disruption cause and will continue to investigate, with the generators involved and wider stakeholders, to understand the lessons learned."

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