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What causes power cuts?

From Power Cuts

Here are some of the most common causes.

  • Accidents
  • Acts of nature
  • Voltage dips and short power cuts
  • Planned work on our network
So, what are the causes of power cuts? [pdf]

However much we protect, maintain and improve our network, accidents will sometimes happen. Here are some examples – and how we try to prevent them:

  • Third-party damage
    Every year, other companies damage our cables and lines. We work hard to avoid this by training their staff, providing network plans and locating cables. But damage still sometimes occurs. The costs are considerable but, wherever possible, we bill those responsible. 
  • Insulation failure
    In urban areas, most of our cables are buried underground. That means we can’t carry out any maintenance work on them. Predicting when a cable’s insulation might fail is rather like predicting when a light bulb will blow: almost impossible. When failure happens, replacement is the only option. 
  • Unknown causes
    Sometimes there are no signs of damage. In this case, we can usually restore power without any repairs.

Acts of Nature
Natural causes are, of course, beyond our control. But we still work hard to minimise their impact on our network.

  • Severe weather
    Strong winds, heavy rain, floods and lightning can all damage equipment and cause power cuts. The equipment we use has been designed to withstand most of the hazards our climate can throw at it.  And when we refurbish circuits, we upgrade them to the latest protective technology. 
  • Trees
    Our area covers some of the most heavily wooded parts of the UK. Falling trees and branches can bring wires down, while trees brushing against a line can cause intermittent or temporary loss of supply. To keep these problems to a minimum, we have a continuous tree-trimming programme, employing specialist tree surgeons. We also work with householders and landowners to balance our safety needs with environmental and aesthetic priorities.

Voltage dips and short power cuts
If you experience temporary disruption to your power supply, it could be down to a short power cut or voltage dip.

  • Short Power Cuts
    A short power cut is a break in supply lasting just a few seconds.  Most common in rural areas supplied by overhead lines, these can be caused by lightning, birds or windborne debris. Read more about Short power cuts <link to PDF What causes power cuts? 
  • Voltage dips
    The network of cables and overhead lines that supply your area are fed by a main substation. If a fault occurs there, we can often restore your electricity by switching to another substation. This can cause a voltage dip, which may cause:
    • Your lights to dim briefly
    • Your TV picture to change size or shape temporarily
    • Your clocks or videos to need resetting 
  • Voltage dips are nothing to worry about. And manufacturers of electrical equipment sold in the UK design their products to cope with these variations in voltage. 

Planned work on our network
  • Very occasionally, we may need to switch your power off so that our engineers can work safely on our equipment. Wherever possible, we try to keep your power on, often by supplying you from another substation. However, as a last resort, we may need to switch your power off to:
    • Maintain the equipment that brings the power to your home or business
    • Make new connections to our network
    • Refurbish, repair or replace our equipment 
  • If we do need to switch your power off for any of these reasons, we will write to you in advance with the times we expect to switch the power off and on. We’ll also provide you with a telephone number to call for advice, if you are worried or seriously ill.