Unless there is an incredible weather anomaly, the UK is not going to experience major power cuts, in the very near future. Sure we’ve had a very mild autumn, with low output from our wind turbine farms and failures in some of our older power generating stations. Thankfully, the National Grid plans for such events and operates a far more complex monitoring and forecasting system than simply sticking a wet finger outside an office window.
The role of the National Grid is to manage and balance our country’s energy supply and demand. They regularly review their operations as part of their remit. Their latest report, (2015/16 Winter Outlook) was published in October and featured: an expected loss of load expectation of 1.1hours/year, equivalent to a de-rated safety margin of 5.1% and an expectation that a contingency balancing reserve would be used to assist system balancing this winter.
No surprises there then. Yet, as soon as the National Grid brings on more power generation under its Short Term Operating Reserve (STOR) program or initiates an emergency measure known as Demand Side Balancing Reserve (DSBR), the news is awash of imminent Armageddon. UPS and generator companies also lap up the opportunity to scaremonger a few more orders onto their books and push a bandwagon that most datacentre managers now simply look at with distain.
However, you cannot ignore the fact that what the National Grid has to monitor is an immensely complex system of distribution network assets. It is failures within the distribution system itself that are more likely to create power cuts. Breakdowns happen. Hardware fails, cables are accidentally or intentionally cut, lighting strikes and other anomalies occur. Response teams can be on-site within hours but rectification work can take up to several days – as we saw last winter.
As data centre managers already know, they must build power continuity into their operational plans. More forward thinking energy users are looking to manage their facilities as ‘internal power grids’. Rather than simply plugging gaps with UPS systems and generators they are taking a more holistic view. These organisations want to be able to manage and control their multiple power sources, including renewable and local energy storage. Upstream they want all their power protection devices DCIM software compatible, right down to the PDUs into which they plug their servers.
Some UPS and generator resellers are changing to meet the challenges. They are transforming into Power Continuity specialists with a much wider power protection portfolio of hardware products, software and services. In my view these are the companies that will serve users needs far better than single product solution companies.
It’s always been an interesting time to be in the power protection industry. Even more so now and I personally hope that UK government will invest to support new student engineers, graduates and company start-ups. I also hope that eventually we can see industry specific qualifications for Power Continuity. These will go some way to differentiate the headline sprayers from the more professional engineers and longer-term view they take to power protection.
For more information on how we can help you design and implement a Power Continuity Plan for your site please call us on 0800 210 0088.