Unexpected interruptions to the power supply can occur for many reasons including storms and lightning, trees or branches falling onto powerlines or car accidents.
However, sometimes it is also necessary for power companies to interrupt supply in a planned or co-ordinated way. This may occur because of routine maintenance or for safety reasons.
On rare occasions, planned or deliberate interruptions occur because electricity generators or transmission and distribution networks cannot safely supply the demand for power.
The occasions are known as rotating outages, load shedding or power sharing and often happen at very short notice. Although they are not common, all electricity networks operate in this way from time to time.
Electricity cannot be stored efficiently and so power generators must constantly supply the amount of electricity being used at any one time.
Electricity networks must safely deliver this electricity, so they too must be designed and built to match the amount of electricity needed by homes and businesses at peak times when demand for power can reach high levels.
On very few occasions, power stations or parts of the electricity network are not available or able to operate at maximum capacity when demand for power is high.
By sharing or rotating electricity supply to customers during these times, electricity distributors can avoid more widespread blackouts, or potentially long lasting interruptions.
When load shedding is required, Ausgrid makes every attempt to ensure important customers such as hospitals and retirement homes have back up supply, such as portable generators. We also make every attempt to contact individual customers who may require continuous supply.
Electricity customers should turn off non-essential electrical equipment like pool pumps and clothes dryers or use them during off-peak periods, and turn off any lights that are not needed. Appliances left on standby can also be turned off at the power point to reduce demand for energy and help manage your electricity bills.
If it's hot, keep the heat out by keeping doors and windows closed, and if you’re running an air conditioner consider setting the temperature to between 23 and 26 degrees. However this is not an option for everyone, and the health and wellbeing of people such as the elderly, young children and people with a medical condition should take priority. If it's cold set the temperature no warmer than 21 degrees and consider wearing more layers of clothing.
- Turn off all power points, light switches, appliances and electronic equipment. This will reduce demand on the grid and provide greater safety when power is restored in your area.
- Avoid using non-essential electrical appliances when you have power during the rotating event. Keep the big energy users like washing machines, swimming pool pumps, dishwashers, heaters or air conditioners turned off if possible.
- Turn the fridge off and leave the fridge door closed as much as possible to keep food fresh.
- Consider putting the most commonly used items like milk and drinks in an esky or tub filled with ice.
- Leave a light on so you'll know when power has been restored.
- Have fresh batteries available for radios and torches.
- Take care if using candles.
- Keep an eye out for neighbours, especially if they are elderly, sick or those with young children.
- If you have a gas barbecue, keep the gas bottle full. You can still cook and make a cup of tea or coffee.
- If you are feeling unwell contact friends, family or a doctor for help or relocate to an area with power. Many major clubs, and shopping centres have generators so can provide respite from the weather during outages.
- If you need a continuous supply of electricity for media reasons consider activating your backup plan. For instance contact a family member, your doctor or local hospital.
- Take care when driving as traffic lights may be affected by power interruptions.
We urge customers who rely on a continuous supply of power for medical equipment to check their back up plans in case the power goes out, and consider whether they need to seek help from friends or family, or their doctor.