In this in-depth TV interview carried out at Telegraph studios, Leo Craig explains how businesses can safeguard themselves against National Grid power problems.
National Grid capacity is dwindling. Only three years ago, there was 17% spare capacity. This figure has plummeted to just 4% as energy reserves reduce.
This means businesses of all sizes and sectors will potentially face power problems as outages become more likely. Our General Manager Leo Craig sat down with journalist Rachael Downey from Business Reporter, a specialist section from the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph newspapers that focuses on enterprise, to explain how businesses can deal with the impending energy crisis.
In a far-reaching interview, Leo outlines the current situation with UK power generation. He highlights issues businesses such as online retailers could face if and when they suffer downtime. And with the country becoming increasingly internet and data centre-reliant, power problems can impact everything from financial institutions through to the NHS and emergency services.
Leo explains the essential insurance that an uninterruptible power supply provides organisations. He also guides the presenter through the process of commissioning and installing a new Riello UPS system. Furthermore, the interview also covers topics such as using Lithium-ion UPS batteries to store renewable energy.
Hello and welcome to the Telegraph studios. I’m Rachael Downey and today we’re going to discuss how to safeguard your business from the National Grid. I’m joined by Leo Craig from Riello UPS.
Leo, what has been the most important news about energy in the past few months?
The most important news is really about the lack of energy we’ve got. Three years ago, the National Grid had 17% spare capacity to feed the UK. Last winter we had 5% spare capacity for the energy, and this year we’re down to 4% spare capacity. So we can see a growing trend where we’re having a declining energy reserve within the UK.
So this would mean more power cuts across the UK? What would really happen?
Basically, if we start running out to power Ofgem have a plan in place. Now, most people actually believe that they expect to go home and have power cuts in the evening, actually, that’s the last thing that will happen. Domestic supplies are pretty much safe, Ofgem will actually cut the power to industry and businesses first before they cut the power to domestic users. So businesses need to think carefully about their own power protection plans.
Well, you mentioned there businesses in the firing line, they’ll go first. So what industries do you think will be affected?
It’s basically all industries, but the obvious one is online, online retailers etc. if they have got any power problems. I mean, for example, you and I both shop online. If we go online and the website’s not there, we don’t think anything of it, we’ve got an error code we just move to another supplier where we can make our purchases. Simple as that.
The CEO of that online company has got to work, it’s his worst nightmare because he comes in in the morning, he sees his website not up so, he then goes to his own IT department. His IT departments say: “actually we’ve had a power failure, we’ve checked with the suppliers the power’s going to be restored but all the servers are down, and we don’t know how long it’s going to take us to get those servers back up. It could be 24 hours.”
The CEO actually realises that he’s lost a sale, he’s losing revenue, potentially lost a customer and he’s losing reputation. And that’s bad news for the CEO because he’s going to have to explain that to the board or shareholders. It could be a devastating effect for the business losing 24 hours trading.
But it’s not just restricting them, because we’re a very internet-reliant society now. And that goes right through from banking institutions, financial sectors, right through to the NHS, to the emergency services etc. They are all relying on the internet and data centres that are supporting that internet. So basically, we’re all at risk.
Well, we’re all at risk then, so we all need to start doing something. Which activity that we do at work or we use at work will use the most energy?
If we look at just a data centres themselves, they actually draw 8% of the UK energy demand, which is a huge amount. But when you compare that to the amount of revenue say for online stores. it’s said that it’s going to be £221 billion worth of revenue from online sales by 2016, which is a huge amount. So you can actually see why they’re drawing so much energy.
Huge amounts of money could be lost, are you saying then the businesses will suffer the consequences?
No, businesses won’t suffer the consequences if they’ve got the right solutions in place and they’ve got the protection in place. With the right protection, I mean they have an uninterruptible power supply or standby generation so that if there is a power cut, they can actually continue operating, continue their services. Whether it’s online stores they can continue selling, if it’s the NHS they can continue moving patients’ records, continuing operations etc. and the emergency services can continue on their 999 calls.
Okay, let’s do a thought experiment if I was going to contact you today what happens from tomorrow? Can I have a step-by-step description from the briefing to the implementation?
Right the most important thing is the briefing when we go into with the client and find out what their needs are. So we’re actually looking at how critical their businesses is, what is the risk, and how much would they lose if they had a power failure. And it’s different for different businesses. If it’s a small shop the losses might not be too bad if it’s only loss of power 10 minutes. But if it’s a national bank and they lose power for 10 minutes the losses could be quite horrendous or in the stock markets.
So once we understand the criticality of the business, then we were able to start putting together a solution and from that point forward it’s just a matter of implementing that solution, so perfect planning making the changeover as smooth as possible for the business, and then making sure their equipment is maintained for the future.
We understand therefore that you know it’s a risk, that’s why we have to implement a solution. But what is the disruption for every-day businesses?
There shouldn’t be any disruption when we’re implementing the UPS system, and actually, if there is an interruption that’s not really the problem for the client because what they’re protecting against is interruptions they’re not expecting, and that can be the one that’s really damaging to the business. So they’re putting the system in that’s planned and the planned interruption, but they’re protecting against interruptions that are going to be the unexpected problem, and that’s the one that’s going to cost them a lot of money.
You mentioned again Leo the interruptions, so what happens for instance in a power cut, what happens to the backup to the backup?
Well, it’s a really good question actually because an uninterruptible power supply is an electronic device and like any electronic device, whether it be a TV, microwave, fridge-freezer, it can it will fail at some point in this future.
So it’s important for clients to realize that and to take action on that. So we put redundant systems in so if one fails the other one’ll carry on, so that gives them the extra protection. So they’re not only protected against power failures, but they’re also protected against equipment failures, and it also enables them to maintain the equipment without any downtime.
Does it and how does it comply with the carbon emission regulations?
Well, all businesses are going to have to start complying with carbon emission regulations and targets set by the UK and European governments. The UPS itself needs to be as efficient as possible. It’s like when you’re going out to buy a washing machine, we look for the A double star-rated washing machines to reduce energy costs and we need to do the same data centres.
But there’s more they can do now. There’s the introduction of Lithium-ion batteries which are much, much smaller and store a lot more power. So the data centre themselves can use this technology to store more power within the data centre, which they can use at times of peak demand on the National Grid working with the National Grid.
It’s basically called smart grid technology and data centres really start embracing this because the worst thing is that they’re going to see more and more power cuts, so if they can help the National Grid it helps them.
And businesses in streets, they only need to implement things that are a success, so how can we measure the success?
Well, I mean if we’re measuring the efficiency there are various metrics within the data centre environment, one of which is the Power Usage Effectiveness and that’s easily measured within the data centre. But the most critical one apart from the efficiency is the resilience and actually, that’s the amount of downtime that’s actually experienced by the data centre.
Data centres are looking for zero downtime. If they can get to 99.999% uptime that’s a good metric and a good target to get to get to.
All seems like we should implement things quite quickly so where do you see the energy crisis and say five to ten years?
The energy crisis is not going to get any better, it’s going to get worse basically. There’s been 15 power stations shut down since 2012 on the National Grid, the only new energy that’s been coming online is basically renewable, such as wind, solar and wind power, and basically, that’s great if the sun’s shining and the winds blow.
In the future, there’s Hinkley Point, that looks like it’s going to go ahead, but that’s ten years from now. So we’ve now got ten years of dwindling energy reserves and that’s going to affect business big time. It could be a nightmare scenario
Well, you know what Leo, I thank you for bringing this to our attention. Thank you for joining us here today at the Telegraph studios.
Thank you very much.