Preparing for winter and possible power cuts

Preparing for winter and possible power cuts

Recent severe weather has shown the impact loss of power can have on our local communities. The National Grid has also suggested that planned short power outages - in exceptional circumstances - may be needed early in 2023 amid concerns over energy supplies.

The University is preparing for both planned or unplanned power losses, should any happen, focusing on student and staff welfare, the running of our estate and facilities, and identifying the activities and resources that can be supported by our generators. 

Winter Planning

There are a number of steps you can take to prepare yourself in winter, travel in bad weather and for powering through power cuts.

What the University is doing

  • Working closely with our Schools and support teams to evaluate key business functions and the ways they may be disrupted by any foreseeable incidents 
  • Liaising with our partners and service providers across the region and developing robust plans to minimise any interruptions to teaching, research and other normal business activities 
  • Creating shared spaces that will be powered by our generators to ensure safe, warm and well-lit places where students and staff can go during power outages 
  • Collating details of students who may be most vulnerable if there is a power cut – please let Student Support know if you are in the most vulnerable category 

Advice for students and staff

Why might planned power cuts happen?

Colder temperatures during winter naturally lead to more energy being consumed as we turn the heating on and use electricity for longer periods of the day.  

With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the flow of gas to Europe from Russia has stopped and there is less supply which can be imported to the UK. 

The National Grid has said that while unlikely, it may be necessary to switch off power in regionalised areas for short periods of time to prevent a significant breakdown nationally. 

When could outages take place?

While no dates have been confirmed, it’s possible that outages could take place during the first two weeks of January 2023, potentially lasting from late afternoon into early evening. 

What would this involve?

If this happens temporary power cuts would take place in different regions around the UK. Affected areas would likely get 24 hours' notice with the power off for a period of three hours.

Which areas might be affected by planned power outages?

A rota disconnection system would operate - should there be a need for short power cuts - with customers in different areas cut off at different times or days. 

You can find your rota disconnection code - also known as a ‘block letter’ or ‘alpha identifier’ - and determine which network area you live in on the website by typing your postcode into the ‘Find Your Network Operator’ section. 

If you have access to one, you can also find this letter in a square box on your energy bill. 

Our Foresterhill campus may not be as widely affected as Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, including University buildings, are protected against planned power outages. However, it may be that our power usage at Foresterhill would need to be reduced. 

When could outages take place?

While no dates have been confirmed, it’s possible that outages could take place as early as the first two weeks of January 2023, potentially lasting from late afternoon into early evening.

What practical steps could I take to prepare?

There are a number of things you can do including having a torch and spare batteries handy – more tips here.

If advance warning is given of power cuts ensure you are backing up and saving work on the network / H drive. 

What if I am on campus and a power outage is planned that would affect campus?

If this was to happen, the expected 24 hours’ advance notice would enable us to close campus at 3pm on the day of the outage and ask staff and students to head home safely. 

Those still required on campus – such as frontline staff in Estates and Facilities and Student Support – would be briefed by their managers regards where to get access to facilities and hot water. 

Will the Sir Duncan Rice Library remain open?

The SDRL would close at the same time campus closed and reopen the next day. 

Will buildings still have power?

No.  Some buildings on campus do have limited generator support, but this is largely to provide back up for critical systems and equipment.  These are not able to support normal activities for working to continue.

Will my classes be cancelled?

The timing of possible planned outages is before most teaching resumes in January.  However, there are a small number of areas where classes might be impacted.  Where possible, teaching will be rescheduled to accommodate any power outages.  Should this not be possible, classes may require to be cancelled.  Schools will keep you informed. 

How will lost teaching time be made up?

Where classes are impacted, teaching will be rescheduled where possible.  If this cannot be done, you will not be disadvantaged and any assessments will be adjusted to remove any missed teaching. 

Is there any action I personally should take to prepare for a planned outage?

In the event of a planned power outage, you should ensure that prior to leaving campus, all  windows and office doors are secured, and that lights are switched off.  Desktops PCs and laptops should remain connected to the mains as normal. There is no need to turn off PC equipment.  

I'll want to physically check everything is okay with my research / work after the outage, can I?

Turning the power off and then reinstating it across our estate is a complex process and it is possible that issues may arise following the switch back on. The University’s security, electrical and mechanical teams have developed an extensive plan of action for a sequenced shut down and restart across all affected buildings to ensure, as far as possible, minimal impact on our facilities and to avoid a surge when power does return.

If planned outages happen during the winter break how will I know about them?

If any short power cuts are planned over the winter break when staff and students are on holiday, you should expect to see widespread media coverage alerting the public to the fact they are happening. 

What do I do if the power goes off and I can't contact my colleagues?

We advise that Teams consider this and agree the actions to take in this scenario in advance. A template is available here to assist with this


You may want to download Safezone which is a free app that connects you to the University security team if you ever need urgent help, first aid or have an emergency while on campus. In time the app may also be used in some situations for sending out mass messages.

I am really worried about the power cuts. Who can I speak to?

If you are a student in University accommodation and a priority customer, please contact Student Support.

If you live in your own accommodation liaise with your energy provider regarding any specific concerns and ensure they know if you are a priority customer. 

If you have any other concerns, or would just like to talk to someone in confidence, you may wish to use the following services: