While we’re all still dealing with the effects of the COVID-19 crisis, the next shutdown could be just around the corner. Experts predict that a so-called blackout will occur within the next five years. This is a large-scale failure of the power supply that would result in the collapse of the entire infrastructure and furthermore cause catastrophic restrictions in our everyday life. Because without electricity everything stands still: telecommunications, water and fuel supply, traffic control, heating and air conditioning, computer systems and much more are not available for an indefinite period of time, which can result in significant business interruptions for all industries and production companies.

The triggers are manifold…

There could be many reasons for a blackout: cyber and terrorist attacks, natural disasters, human error and, above all, insufficient network stability. The power supply is based on systems that are prone to errors due to their complexity, which triggers chain reactions that can lead to nationwide service interruptions. It is not possible to permanently eliminate all these potential causes, so the threat of a future blackout is severe.

In March 2015, for example, 80 out of 81 provinces in Turkey suffered a 10-hour power outage. Public transport stopped, traffic lights failed and the result was a fundamental traffic chaos. The total economic damage amounted to several hundred million EUR. Initially, a cyber-attack was suspected as the trigger, but in the end the variations in the Turkish power grid were identified as the cause of the blackout.

Similar incidents have occurred on all continents several times in the past decades, but what is striking is the increasing number of power outages in recent years, which is probably due to the increasingly complex networking of the power infrastructure and the growing proportion of alternative power generation with wind mills or solar energy.

…the solutions in risk and insurance management as well!

Whether and to what extent property and business interruption policies provide insurance protection for the consequences of such events can only be assessed for the individual cases and depends on the respective circumstances and the underlying insurance conditions. In the common extension clauses for business interruption damage due to service interruption, however, the occurrence of physical property damage (e.g. a fire at the suppliers premises) is a precondition.

We therefore recommend to our clients to analyze the potential effects of a blackout together with our experts in the course of a mutual risk dialog and to adapt the necessary insurance cover to the respective demand as best as possible.

Of course, well-functioning risk management also plays a decisive role in dealing with service interruptions due to longer-lasting power failures. Blackout scenarios should therefore also be taken into account in the emergency and business continuity management plans and appropriate preventive measures should be established so that consequential damage, such as the failure of critical cooling systems, will not occur and potential business interruption loss is limited as far as possible. Our risk engineers from GrECo Risk Engineering GmbH are also happy to provide further information and advice on risk and business continuity management in case of a blackout.

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Rudolf Schiel

Practice Leader Property & Engineering

T +43 664 822 27 58