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Blog Post Tuesday 19 March 2019

What to Do if You Have a Power Outage During a Storm

What to Do if You Have a Power Outage During a Storm

Power outages can happen at any time, and they can be a big hassle to deal with, causing a lot of disruption and stress. Here we've explain what causes outages and outlined how to report them so you can get back to your regular schedule as quickly as possible.

Power outages: what causes them?

A power outage is a short-term or long-term loss of electricity, and it typically affects a specific area. Three major different types of faults could be behind a power outage:

  • Permanent fault - The problem could be permanent fault, say, on the power line. Once this is repaired, you'll have electricity running again.
  • Brownouts - The outage could be due to brownouts, which are temporary drops in voltage in the power supply.
  • Blackouts - The outage could be a blackout, which is a total loss of power to a given area. This type of outage could last just minutes or it could last for weeks.

Recent major outages in Australia include the South Australian blackout in December 2016, which affected 200,000 people. The outage was caused by a problem with the Victorian transmission network separating South Australia from the national grid.

The planned late-January blackouts in Melbourne affected about 60,000 properties. They were due to the Australian Energy Market Operator directing load shedding (rolling blackouts) to avoid damage in case of high demand due to the extremely high temperatures and bushfires. Globally, one of the biggest blackouts in the world happened in Brazil in 1999, when 60 million Brazilians were left without electricity for four hours.

Why blackouts are common during storms

Faults, brownouts, and blackouts could be caused by other factors, the most significant of which could be storms. The cause tends to be damage to the power infrastructure. For example, extreme weather conditions - like damaging winds, lightning, or extreme heat - can see power lines damaged. They can also be damaged when it's a high-wind days with a lot of debris. If there's a lot of rain leading to flooding, this could lead to damaged electricity infrastructure.

However, storms aren't the only potential underlying cause. You could have electricity spikes (short-lived increases in the supply voltage) leading to blackouts, which in turn could be caused by things like lightning, short circuits, and tripped circuit breakers.

Other things like vehicle accidents damaging poles and causing lines to touch and animals such as birds and possums setting off or damaging equipment can also cause outages. Work on underground cables could unintentionally damage power infrastructure and cause an outage. Emergencies like bushfires can mean electricity supplies are deliberately disconnected for safety reasons. Planned maintenance can also lead to planned outages, but usually you'll have a warning for these.

When and how to report a power outage

Before contacting anyone, check your circuit breaker or safety switch. Make sure these haven't tripped. If switches in your metre box are off, the issue might be an appliance or electrical circuit in your property rather than an outage. However, if they're all on, you probably have an outage, so you’ll want to report it.

Contact the wholesale electricity distributor

While you might immediately think to get in touch with your electricity retailer (like Click Energy), your retailer actually doesn't manage the electricity infrastructure and equipment. Your retailer buys the electricity from wholesale electricity distributors, and these distributors are the ones that look after the electricity infrastructure - the equipment that's likely behind the outage.

Always contact your distributor first, as they're the ones who can send someone to check if there's a damaged power line or other underlying issue. Additionally, your distributor is the one who can give you a time frame for restoration of electricity.

You can find your local distributor's contact details here. If you're a Click Energy customer, you can find your local distributor's number here. Remember, if there's a risk to life or risk of injury, dial 000 right away.

Will my solar system still work during a power outage?

So will your solar system work during an outage and can you rely on it for these unexpected events?

The short answer is it depends. How your solar panel system is set up determines whether you'll still be able to access electricity during an outage.

  • Grid-connected solar systems - If your solar panel system is grid connected, it will automatically shut down during an outage, for safety reasons. You won't be able to send electricity back to the (currently faulty or damaged) grid or receive power from the grid.
  • Off-grid solar systems - If your solar system is off grid, great news: you'll be able to power your property even if there's an outage. This is because your property is freestanding in terms of its electricity generation and you're not selling power back to the grid or drawing it from the grid.

Are you and your property prepared?

Power outages are usually unplanned, and weather-related events like storms, flooding, rain, and fires can wreak havoc on electricity infrastructure. If you have an on-grid solar system, you'll likely be affected like everyone else. Stay safe during an outage, and contact your distributor to report it.

Click Energy is a 100% online energy retailer dedicated to making energy as simple as possible. To find out more about our pay-on-time discounts, no-lock-in contracts, and great email and phone customer support, contact us today.