Power cuts can affect many daily activities that we take for granted: turning lights on, charging phones and refrigerating food, for example.
Homes and businesses may be without electricity because of severe weather, but this is not always the case. Sometimes it’s not clear what is causing the loss of supply.
Who to contact if you have a power cut
If you experience a power cut or spot damage to electricity power lines and substations that could put you, or someone else, in danger:
- Telephone 105 (a free phone number) or visit powercut105.com to report or get information about a power cut.
- If there’s a serious immediate emergency risk, call the emergency services too.
105 is a free service for people in England, Scotland and Wales, and you can call the number from most landlines and mobile phones. It doesn’t matter who you choose to buy electricity from - anyone can call. It will put you straight through to your local electricity network operator – the company that manages the cables, wires and substations that bring electricity into homes and businesses in your area.
What to do during a power cut
- Turn off all electrical appliances. But leave one light on – this is so you know when power is restored.
- Keep a torch and spare batteries nearby.
- Be careful when using candles and paraffin heaters. If you must use them, ensure they are not left unattended and keep them away from soft furnishing and children.
- Keep details of your energy network company in a safe place (your latest energy bill will have emergency contact details on the front).
- Keep fridges and freezers closed. Check the food when the power is back on to make sure it hasn’t thawed. If it has, do not re-freeze it.
- Look out for elderly and vulnerable neighbours. If a storm is forecasted, ensure they are prepared for a possible power cut. Also tell your neighbours and friends how you are managing and ask for help if needed.
- Keep a wind-up/battery radio ready so you can listen to local radio updates.
- If a storm is forecast, make sure your laptop/mobile phone is charged.
- Digital or cordless telephones may not work in a power cut. Keep a corded, analogue one nearby.
- When your supply is back on, you might need to reset electric timers, alarm clocks and so on.
- Stay away from fallen overhead power lines and keep others away too. Always assume that a fallen overhead line is live and call your electricity distribution company immediately to report it.
The Energy Networks Association has more useful advice on what to do during a power cut.
Extra help in a power cut
If you rely on your energy supply for medical reasons or need extra support it’s important to let your energy company know. Each energy company keeps a Priority Service Register (PSR) of consumers who may need additional assistance. It’s free to be added to the list.
If you’re on the register and experience a power cut, your supply may not be restored quicker but your energy company can offer you additional help and support. Dependent on your situation this could be regular updates, alternative heating and cooking facilities, or alternative accommodation. You would also get advanced notice of any planned power cuts.
- For further information about assistance available, see Extra help from energy services.
You can join the PSR by contacting your energy supplier (who will tell your electricity distribution company to add you to their list) or by talking to your electricity distribution company directly.
If you have medical equipment that may be affected by a power cut, please discuss your concerns and needs with your carer or doctor. Ensure that essential equipment has battery back-up.
Stairlifts will stop working during a power cut. If there is a manual release handle, the lift can be returned to ground level. Some stairlifts have battery back-up power, which will ensure it keeps on working.
What can Ofgem do?
During a power cut it’s crucial that supply is restored as quickly and as safely as possible. We monitor how well companies do this, and take action if we believe they breached their obligations to customers.
The electricity distribution companies and National Grid update us on how they’re preparing for severe weather. They continue to update us during and after the period of severe weather.
Part of our role is to make sure these companies have enough money to secure their networks and respond to severe weather.
We publish an annual report on their performance, including how many power cuts they have. Our approach has seen reliability of the electricity distribution network improve by around 30% since privatisation. You can find out more in our section The energy network: How it works for you.
Ofgem's Guaranteed Standards
We set rules on how quickly companies have to respond to restore power in both normal weather and severe weather conditions.
We are committed to protecting customers’ interests by ensuring that their electricity supply is reliable, whatever the weather. That’s why we have our Quality of Service Guaranteed Standards. These are service levels that should be met by each distribution company. If you've experienced prolonged or frequent power cuts or a distribution company hasn't kept an appointment you may be entitled to a payment under Ofgem rules. You have three months to claim this from your distribution company.
Find out more about the Guaranteed Standards, who these companies are and how to contact them in Knowing your rights: power cuts.
How to claim compensation if you have a power cut
You could be able to get compensation if you experience a power cut. In most cases, your gas or electricity distribution network operator will be responsible for getting you back on supply and for dealing with compensation claims.
If you experience a power cut because of a faulty meter, you should make a claim to your supplier. Find out more in Understand your energy meter.
For their contact details, see:
Power cuts compensation: How much can I claim?
The amount you can claim if you experience a power cut depends on many factors, including:
- the cause of the interruption
- the amount of time the supply was interrupted.
Payments under our Guaranteed Standards recognise the inconvenience caused by loss of supply. They won't compensate you for subsequent financial loss.
You can view a simple breakdown of the different claim categories and the compensation amounts allocated to each in Knowing your rights: power cuts.