What happens if there are nationwide planned emergency power cuts.

Here's all the info you need about nationwide planned emergency power cuts including what to do if one is announced and how to get extra support if you need it.

What are Rota Load Disconnections (RLD)?

You may have seen news reports that Britain could be facing planned emergency power cuts this winter (also called ‘blackouts’) to help manage the national electricity supply. These will only occur when the government and National Grid agree that there is no other alternative and will be phased across the country so different locations are without power at different times.

The nationwide electricity network is split into areas or ‘blocks’, each of which is identified by a single letter from A to V. To spread the load, a rota system has been created by the National Grid and the government which would mean areas are disconnected for up to 3 hours at a time. These are also known as Rota Load Disconnections (RLD).

How will I know if I'm affected?

There'll be widespread news coverage if a disconnection event is announced, and this will include details of which areas are affected, when and for how long. Each area will be referred to by its block letter, which shows as your postcode area alpha identifier on bills, but it can also be called a Rota Load Disconnection (RLD) letter.

The easiest way to find your block letter is to enter your postcode into our block letter finder. If you move house, even to the next street, it's worth checking your block letter hasn't changed. Find your block letter

You'll also find it on page 2 or 3 of your latest bill or invoice, underneath your supply address.

You can also find your network operator and block letter by calling 105.

The plan for disconnections, which shows when your power will be off, will be available once an emergency power cut has been announced and will show as 'offline' until then. Check the disconnection plan

Get ready and be prepared.

Your electricity should be off for no more than 3 hours at a time, but this could vary depending on the severity of the situation. This may be at peak times, like early evening, so it's best to think in advance about how you would manage your situation. The government will give up to 48 hours notice so you have time to get ready.

Here are our suggestions for what to do in the run up to an emergency power cut:

  • Check that your neighbours (particularly the elderly and vulnerable) know what’s happening and when.
  • Keep a torch handy, with spare batteries - it’s much safer than candles.
  • Charge devices like phones, laptops and batteries.
  • Keep blankets and warm clothing ready.
  • Fill a flask with boiled water for hot drinks and a hot water bottle to help you stay warm.
  • Leave a light on so you know when power is back on.

Remember - if you have a gas cooker, the electronic ignition won't work during a power cut so have a lighter available, just in case you need it.

What to do when the power is off.

During the power cut, try to keep room doors shut as much as possible to keep the heat in and the draughts out. And the same goes for your fridge and freezer too, to help them stay cold.

There’s no need to call us - the power disconnections are controlled by the National Grid.

Extra help from the Priority Services Register (PSR).

We’re here to help if you or someone in your household might need extra support during a power cut, for example you rely on medical equipment which needs to be plugged in. It’s important to sign up to our Priority Services Register and we can let your electricity network operator know.

Being on the Priority Services Register doesn't mean your electricity supply will be restored more quickly or guarantee a power supply if there is a power cut but your network operator can help you to be better prepared for if your electricity supply is interrupted.

Even if you’re already registered, it’s worth checking that the information you’ve told us is up to date. You’ll find this in the profile section of your online account dashboard or send an email to hi@sainsburysenergy.com to update us if your circumstances have changed.

Planned emergency power cuts FAQ

When will there be a planned emergency power cut and why?

The National Grid says that these are unlikely. There are a number of variables that could lead to a Rota Load Disconnection (RLD) event, and it’s difficult for them to predict exactly when one might happen.

Potential examples include:

  • If temperatures drop sharply and the government and National Grid are unable to import enough gas and electricity from Europe.
  • There’s less energy available due to a lack of wind power.
  • Prolonged cloudy weather meaning there’s less solar power.
  • If a nuclear power station needs to shut down for repairs.

Why wouldn’t the National Grid generate enough electricity?

The electricity network in Britain is one of the most reliable in the world. However the country isn’t self-sufficient enough yet when it comes to generating electricity. And while renewable energy plays a big part, no one can control the weather and demand for energy is always higher during the winter months.

The unprecedented situation in the current energy market means electricity supplies are under more pressure than usual.

What’s being done to help avoid planned power cuts?

The National Grid is closely monitoring the situation and this winter launched the Demand Flexibility Service with energy suppliers to help ease the situation.

What can I do to help?

We can all help to reduce the need for power cuts by trying to cut down on how much electricity we use, where possible.

Simple steps like turning off all non-essential items such as dishwashers or tumble dryers and unplugging all equipment that has a standby feature can help. If we all work together, small reductions can make a big difference.

What should I do if I have electrically powered medical equipment?

Most people who are medically dependent on electricity will already know what to do as power cuts can occur from time-to-time during a typical year. If you haven’t already, please sign up to our Priority Services Register so we can let your electricity network operator know you need extra support.

If you need specialist medical support during a planned emergency power cut or require a continuous supply of electricity for medical reasons, you should also think about getting medical advice from your local health service provider or by calling 111.

Can I get compensation if I’m affected?

These events are controlled by the government and National Grid and affect the entire country, including all suppliers, so we can’t offer compensation for any costs or inconvenience experienced.