It happened at 4am on Saturday 2nd April. A BMW, stolen perhaps, was driven too fast and failed to take the corner. As a result it crashed into the telephone junction box, sending it flying for several yards, and smashing its contents to smithereens.
Approximately 400 households woke up later that morning to discover that they lacked a landline telephone connection, and also lacked the internet service supplied in the same way. They woke up the next day to find that both services were still lacking; and did so again on the Monday, and the Tuesday, and each day that followed, until service was finally restored late in the afternoon on Tuesday 12th April, almost 11 days after the initial outage.
It may seem a small matter, and of course in many ways it is – especially against the backdrop of a brutal war in Ukraine, a cost of living crisis, an energy emergency, and so many other global problems. So why do I bother mentioning it here?
I do so because lessons should be learned. In my case, perhaps the lesson I should learn is to join the 21st century, cease sharing a smartphone with my wife, pay for one each, and make sure that each one has a generous monthly data allowance. Had that been the case when the BMW hit the junction box, life in the Hodgson household might have gone on as before – I could have learned from the kind advice offered to me about setting up a wi-fi hotspot from my smartphone and using Bluetooth to connect my laptop to it. As it is, however, I was receiving texts from my smartphone provider after a few short days telling me that I was getting close to exceeding my monthly data allowance (though I was less than halfway through the month). Having learned how to set up the wi-fi hotspot, I discovered that there was no point doing so, since any use of the laptop in this way would rip through the small amount of smartphone data still available to me, in no time.
Perhaps I should also buy a TV licence (though the jury’s still out on that one). My wife and I haven’t missed mainstream TV at all, not least since there is so much to watch on You Tube. However, You Tube viewing is dependent on the internet, so when we lost the internet, we also lost our limited TV entertainment. Perhaps we have too many eggs in the internet basket.
So much for me. The bigger lessons should be learned by our politicians, and those who would dictate the UK’s energy policy. Fortunately, it was the telephone and internet that was denied to me (and to around 400 other households) for just over a week and a half, and not our electricity supply. However, as I pointed out in Capability Downi, the UK’s electricity supply is vulnerable to storms, and when it encounters problems, customers can be denied electricity for prolonged periods. When that happens, more than minor inconvenience is encountered. UK industry (what’s left of it) and other businesses can grind to a halt. Shops, with electronic tills, cease to be able to serve customers. Electric vehicles will be left powerless. Homeowners potentially find themselves left with no ability to heat their homes or to cook. People who rely on mobile ‘phones (an increasing proportion of the population), and who don’t use landlines, will soon find their ‘phones running out of charge. Of course, their internet connection will have failed, so they will have no ability to communicate with anyone other than their immediate neighbours (verbally), or by writing letters and resorting to the postal service again.
It isn’t just storms that can create havoc for the electricity network. Increasing reliance on offshore wind turbines leaves supply vulnerable to bad actors. If it takes BT Openreach eleven days to mend a broken junction box in good weather in an accessible urban location, how long might it take the authorities to mend a power cable linking offshore wind farms to the mainland, if the cable has been deliberately severed in several places by a hostile submarine? In the middle of winter? What of an attack (physical or in the form of cyber warfare) on the National Grid?
We shouldn’t pretend that such things are in the realm of fantasy.
On 22nd March 2022 an articleii appeared on the BBC website under the heading “The three Russian cyber-attacks the West most fears”. It told us that:
Ukraine is often described as the hacking playground of Russia, which has carried out attacks there seemingly to test techniques and tools.
In 2015 Ukraine’s electricity grid was disrupted by a cyber-attack called BlackEnergy, which caused a short-term blackout for 80,000 customers of a utility company in western Ukraine.
Nearly exactly a year later another cyber-attack known as Industroyer took out power for about one-fifth of Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, for about an hour.
The US and EU named and blamed Russian military hackers for the attacks.
The article went on to try to reassure readers that:
…no cyber-attack against a power grid has resulted in an extended interruption of power supply. Executing cyber-attacks on complex engineering systems in a reliable way is extremely difficult and achieving a prolonged damaging effect is sometimes impossible due to in-built protections.
I hope that confidence is justified. Personally, I’m not entirely reassured.
A denial of electricity supply is problematic now. How much worse will it be when we are all forced to drive electric cars, to heat our homes using heat pumps, when gas cookers have been replaced by electric ones, and when coal fires and multi-fuel stoves (aka log burners) have been banned?
No doubt the Government would insist that they are already onto this issue, and that the recent publication of “British Energy Security Strategy”iii shows that they are taking the issue seriously. A 38 page document, which contains perhaps 25 pages of “hard” policy planning (some of which strikes me as borderline fantasy), doesn’t convince me either. Yes, the Government will argue that they are seeking to diversify our energy sources – new nuclear, offshore wind, low carbon hydrogen (yeah, right), “jet zero and green ships”, carbon capture (yeah, right) to allow us to utilise our own oil and gas. However, this really misses the point. Everything is aimed at diversifying the sources of energy that will create the electricity we are all to rely on for pretty much everything. It’s a strange type of diversification that still puts all the eggs in one basket – electricity in this case.
Just as I now need to think long and hard about how I might ensure continued telephone and internet service next time a BMW takes out the local junction box, the powers that be need to wake up, grow up, and think much more seriously about energy security in the UK. How will our lives be if the National Grid fails us, especially if it does so in the middle of winter? It doesn’t matter if such a failure is caused by accident or on purpose. If we don’t have electricity, and we need electricity for pretty much everything, then we’re right royally stuffed.
anybody who thinks gas boilers for heating will be replaced by heat pumps any time within the next 20yrs is just dreaming (IMHO).
but we do seem have a lot of dreamers in charge.
For one moment I thought you meant the 2nd century, and I was nodding in agreement..
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Oh, b*lls. My proof-reading skills obviously aren’t what they were. Thanks for spotting it. I will edit it later.
“On 22nd March 2022 an article appeared on the BBC website ….”
Gotta love Aunty’s:
“Nearly exactly a year later ….”
Guess the redundant adverb? 🤣🤣🤣
May I recommend this. https://www.uswitch.com/mobiles/compare/sim_only_deals/
I am in a marginal area, so use Plusnet which is on the EE network. 25Gb for £10 should be enough for any but hardened Netflix watchers. If you are in a good signal area, 3mobile do fantastic deals.
Disclosure – I have corrected the typo spotted by Geoff.
I’m a bit late in spotting this, from the beginning of March:
“Satellite cyber attack paralyzes 11GW of German wind turbines”
“German wind turbine operators have reportedly been confronted with a fault in the satellite connection of their systems. Dominik Bertrams, MD of wind farm operator Tobi Windenergie Verwaltungs GmbH, yesterday announced on Twitter the remote monitoring and control of thousands of wind turbines had failed.
With the outage having occurred between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. on Thursday – when the Russian army invaded Ukraine – Bertrams suspected a cyber attack by Russian hackers. The reason for the failure has not yet been clarified.
It would appear unlikely, however, Russian hackers directly targeted German wind turbines. Commenting on the incident to the Handelsblatt business newspaper, a spokesperson for the German Wind Energy Association said the disruption was due to the failure of the KA-Sat communication satellite belonging to Viasat. An article in weekly news magazine Der Spiegel stated the US military’s military communications services also run through Viasat satellites.
Those reports would suggest failure of the wind turbine control systems could be the collateral damage from a cyber attack on a primarily military target.”
Still, whether they were a primary target or (perhaps more likely) suffered collateral damage, policy makers should take note.
This is what it’s come to:
“National Grid will pay households to shift electricity use to avoid blackouts
Scheme encourages customers with smart meters to use less energy at peak times and reduce carbon emissions”
“National Grid plans to reduce the risk of blackouts this winter by paying consumers to use less electricity at peak times, it has emerged.
The electricity network operator is racing to set up a scheme that will enable households with smart meters to choose to cut how much energy they use when supplies are low.
Initial proposals drawn up by National Grid’s electricity system operator (ESO) say that households could be paid up to £6 a kilowatt hour in credit instead of paying out 28.34p a kilowatt hour, The Times reported.
The move comes as the government looks for ways to secure extra energy supplies this winter and limit usage by consumers.
The business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, hopes to broker further deals to extend the life of Britain’s last remaining coal-fired power stations through the winter, after keeping West Burton A in Nottinghamshire in operation.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has put further strain on already stretched energy supplies. Ministers are concerned that – in a worst-case scenario – Britain could experience rolling blackouts this winter….”.
And that’s before we all have to use heat pumps and electric ovens and drive electric cars…
“Nord Stream attacks highlight vulnerability of undersea pipelines in west
on the HMS Queen Elizabeth
As Norway steps up seabed security, experts say underwater cables carrying world’s internet traffic are also at risk”
Yes, oil and gas pipelines and internet cables may be at risk. But surely so are the interconnectors between the UK and Europe and also the HVDC cables between the UK mainland and windfarms. Why no mention of them?
“Damaged cable leaves Shetland cut off from mainland”
It should be easy to find the culprits. Just look for the boat that has been trying out their new bottom trawling gear.
“Naval expert warns on ‘increasingly probable’ offshore wind farm terror drone strikes
Study by Polish Navy officer Tomasz Chyła urges use of air defence systems and patrol vessels to guard against sabotage in wake of Nord Stream gas pipeline strike”
Since the Poles were at least complicit in the Nord Stream explosions, should we consider this as a warning or a threat?
Bill, I think there are cogent arguments for and against Nordstream having been sabotaged by any of Ukraine, Poland, Russia, or USA. Whoever did it, the fact of its sabotage makes a nonsense of UK politicians claiming that things like offshore wind energy enhances our energy security. On the contrary, it increases our vulnerability.
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Seymour Hersh says it was definitely the last-named of those four.
Richard, the Daily Sceptic is, well, sceptical, about the Seymour Hersh claim:
“Seymour Hersh’s Sensational Claims About the Nord Stream Sabotage Don’t Add Up”
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Thanks Mark. It is today – or at least Ian Rons is. Toby Young wasn’t as critical yesterday, saying “Seymour Hersh’s piece is worth reading in full.” Or maybe Young now feels he wasn’t so clued up yesterday! Meanwhile Steve Mc’s pinned tweet points to Independent Video Evidence Confirms Key Part of Sy Hersh’s Report on the Attack on Nord Stream 2 by Larry Johnson. After showing the YouTube video that is claimed to corroborate one part of Hersh’s story, Johnson writes:
Strong feelings all round. But that’s as it should be. The debate is good.
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It’s not often you see Steve Mc use the phrase "herring farts" in a tweet exactly the same minute that Geoff Chambers does the same in one of his. More to learn every day 😉 And if you look back at the chain of Steve’s tweets he accepts that Hersh may have some details wrong, perhaps because his source deliberately muddied the water to protect himself (or herself).
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“UK-Norway gas pipelines face threat as Russia vows ‘punishment’ for Nord Stream leaks”
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I can’t help agreeing with Peskov there. Jeffrey Sachs wasn’t the only one pointing to the eerie silence from the US MSM two days after the article. (Later they also discuss another very little covered matter: what the former Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett has recently revealed about the Russia-Ukraine peace negotiations being kyboshed by Washington in March 2022.) But the situation in Germany is apparently different now, according to a German friend of Alexander Mercouris, who says people are discussing the Hersh piece. Right at the end of that video Mercouris moots the idea that the breakdown between Olaf Scholz and his defence minister (and leader of the German Greens) Annalena Baerbock could perhaps have been exacerbated because she got advance warning of the operation and he didn’t. The Telegraph’s Olaf Scholz furious after minister ‘went behind back’ over Ukraine tanks has a different, but possibly consonant, take on the disharmony. It is to me striking how warlike the traditional anti-war and anti-American German Greens have become.
“Putin attempting to sabotage North Sea energy assets, Netherlands warns”
GreenSupremacists have been saboutaging UK energy for years
“Ukraine war: The Russian ships accused of North Sea sabotage”
It has always struck me as strange that anyone could suggest that further investment in renewables is an investment in energy security. The only crumb of comfort is that it is a climate change denier’s myth that these windfarms are visually obtrusive, and so the Russians will have the devil’s job finding them.
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This will supply energy security?
“LionLink: North Sea power line to connect wind farms to UK”
The reference to Putin is particularly ironic given the BBC article I linked to two comments above, which was headlined “Ukraine war: The Russian ships accused of North Sea sabotage” and which claimed: