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Energy CostsIN CHARLOTTEMay 11, 2022by AndrewWhat Causes a “Rolling Blackout?”

Rolling blackouts, or periodic, rotating power outages, are temporary, planned power outages that help balance the supply and demand of electricity to an area. Usually, the government department that supervises the power grid in a state or region will mandate rolling blackouts and the electric utility company will carry out the rolling outages to one area at a time to control the duration of the blackouts for each area. Rolling power outages are commonly the last step in a series of emergency situation procedures after a power supply shortage or failure is found in an area. The utility company might have little to no notification regarding the need for blackouts and outages.

Why the Need for Rolling Blackouts?

If the electrical power supply in a region is limited or low, the demand might be too high for the supply. The demand could cause a longer, more problematic blackout of power. A planned, controlled blackout, rolling through different areas for a span of time, prevents a longer power outage.

How Long Does a Rolling Blackout Last?

The span of a rolling blackout depends on a number of variables. It depends on the seriousness of the event or energy shortage. The utility company will generally try to keep the duration of the outage as short as possible for each area in the overall region of the rolling blackouts. The rolling blackout will end when the emergency has ended.
Sometimes an outage lasts 1-2 hours but it can be for longer spans. High demand for power can be a sudden spike, this means government agencies or companies may have to go to a rolling blackout fast.

Who Decides Where Rolling Blackouts Will Happen?

The utility company may determine which service areas must have rolling blackouts and the span or schedule of them. Some locations, such as essential hospitals, medical centers and facilities may not have power cut during rolling blackouts.

The process for starting and managing rolling power outages varies across the nation. Generally, the regulative body for power in your area orders rolling blackouts when their monitoring systems detect a problem. Your energy company is called for by law to abide.
Most areas have plans which keep power on to important locations or facilities and switch over power on and off in sections of the grid until the order is ended.

What About People Who Have Vital Care Needs at Home?

Critical care customers will likely be affected by rolling blackouts. People with vital needs for constant electrical power, such as for medical needs, should have a back-up plan for power and care should rolling blackouts, weather emergencies or other factors cause a power outage.

How to Plan for a Rolling Blackout

Just like any type of power failure, it’s important to be prepared with supplies and materials beforehand. You should know what to do to keep you and your family safe. Since rolling power outages can occur suddenly, you will want to be prepared while taking into consideration the needs of your home and family now. Several of the actions to take are the same for any emergency situation, no matter the season or the cause of the situation. While rolling blackouts are normally brief, take the time now to additionally plan for a long-lasting power failure.

  • Stockpile essentials – It may not be possible to go to a store during a rolling blackout. Stores without power may not have the ability to operate and could be closed. See to it to have food, water and vital medications.
  • Have an evacuation plan – If you have to leave because you have no power, know what your plan is and where you can go ahead of time. Think about what your family and pets will need. Know what you’ll need to do with valuables.
  • Have a flashlight and batteries – Having the ability to see at night may be important for multiple reasons, yet the main idea is it’s a security concern. Having a safe, non-flammable light source is a need.
  • Have a battery-operated radio – A radio is a way to access information and announcements. A radio that operates on batteries, hand-cranked or solar power, or a combination of these sources, is what you want.
  • Protect appliances – When there’s a blackout, then the power comes on again, there could be a power surge that damages devices and appliances. They should be unplugged during a blackout.
  • Know about the situation – It’s helpful to know why the power is out and report it to the utility company or municipality. Is it a rolling blackout? The outage could be from a fault or trip in your house? Is it due to weather or another emergency?

Is There Anything I Can Do?

It’s possible to play a small role in preventing rolling blackouts. You can decrease your power usage, especially during high-use times. There are suggestions to consider and ways to decrease, or reschedule, some of your electricity usage.

  • Raise the temperature on your thermostat – Increasing the AC a couple of degrees, especially during peak hours of the day, typically 3-7 p.m. saves energy. You can set the thermostat to a higher temperature when no one will be in the house.
  • Use ceiling fans – Ceiling fans help produce downdraft air flow in the rooms you spend the most time in. The room isn’t actually cooler, but it will feel cooler, so you can save a little on your AC.
  • Turn off electronics and lights – Turn off and unplug lights and electronics when not in use.
  • Cut back during peak hours – Try to cut back on or delay the use of big home appliances from 3-7 p.m.
  • Seal windows and doors – Sealing spaces where cooler air can run out keeps AC-treated air in the house.


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