Get ready for blackouts from London to LA, as the global energy crisis overwhelms grids and sends energy prices skyrocketing (2024)

For the first time in decades, the western world is preparing for widespread and rolling energy shortages. The US, UK, and EU have all been squeezed by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, soaring costsfor electricity and fuel, and record-breaking heat waves. While fall is just around the corner, the worst of the energy strain is likely still to come.

Even wealthy nations won't be spared, at least without broad broad policy change and private-sector overhauls. Add in the accompanying economic costs and extreme health risks, and you have a very difficult situation.

In California, it will materialize as outage warnings and restrictions on your air conditioning. Then in coming years, Texans, Illinoisans, and Missourians will join the suffering of their west coast peers amid sweltering heat and rolling blackouts.


And across Europe and the UK, residents not used to heat waves will either face skyrocketing energy bills or dangerously hot summers — a situation made worse by their reliance on Russian gas, the flow of which has been essentially cut off entirely.

In the US, climate change risks decades of 'extreme danger'

Amid record-high temperatures on the west coast Tuesday afternoon, California's grid operator ISO urged residents to limit their energy use and cautioned that rolling blackouts could arrive.

Get ready for blackouts from London to LA, as the global energy crisis overwhelms grids and sends energy prices skyrocketing (1)

The text alert worked.Emergency precautions liftedat 8 pm PT without the need forwidespreadblackouts. The utility added that residents' energy conservation "played a big part" in bolstering the grid's reliability.

The relief was short-lived. Just 15 hours later, the ISO issued another alert calling on residents to use less energy throughout the afternoon. Californians were encouraged to avoid using large appliances, unplug unused electronics, and set their thermostats no lower than 78 degrees.

"I can't keep doing this," Twitter user @sdfashionista3 wrote in response to the ISO on Thursday morning. "Been in San Diego my entire life never seen the temp this high at night even during a Santa Ana."

And while the ISO's Tuesday alert helped stave off rolling blackouts, more than 50,000 Californians experienced some form of a power outage that afternoon, according to data from

The strain on California's power grid can be traced directly to climate change. Average temperatures have risen faster than residents' heat tolerance, meaning Californians are running their air conditioning significantly longer than they did just years ago. Yet utilities companies and regulators haven't bolstered the power grid accordingly, and soaring demand for electricity has pushed that infrastructure to the edge.

"Fossil-fuel based electricity has traditionally been seen as the most reliable," Romany Webb,an associate research scholar at Columbia Law School and senior fellow at the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, told Insider. "But the combination of gas being in shorter supply and more expensive, combined with these climate impacts, highlight that that's really no longer the case."


The alerts, while helpful on Tuesday, underscore the looming threat facing California and other states with hotter climates. Roughly 8 million Americans are already expected to experience temperatures above 125 degrees in 2022, levels deemed to pose "extreme danger," according to the National Weather Service. That count is expected to reach 107 million people in 2053 as climate change powers higher and higher temperatures, according to new research from First Street Foundation.

California won't be alone. All of Illinois and Missouri are set to feature 125 degree days by 2053, the foundation found. Parts of 23 other states will land in the belt.

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Without massive investment in overhauling the country's energy grid, such heat waves could knock out power across states for days on end. That endangers millions who can't afford to cool down with a generator or a pool. A lack of power will also lead to widespread food spoilage as freezers and refrigerators shut down.

Countless business owners will be forced to close up shop, and those staying open won't get much traffic as Americans focus on beating the heat.


Americans requiring powered medical devices will be in the most immediate danger, especially as blackouts can come at a moment's notice.

"If we don't accelerate our action to mitigate climate change and prepare for the climate change that's already happening, we're likely to see more of these outages and have a less reliable grid," Webb said.

Europe's decoupling from Russian energy presents an impossible choice

The EU and UK's energy problem has far more to do with their dependence on Russia. While the US can largely rely on its own energy commodities for power despite its struggles with its antiquated electric grid, western Europe leans heavily on Moscow for its natural gas and crude oil to keep prices steady.

The relationship, while rocky, lasted for several decades. That ended when Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022 and sparked intense backlash from the West. The EU and UK quickly levied sanctions on Russia's energy sector, unveiling plans to quickly reduce their purchases of Russian goods and find those commodities elsewhere.


The pivot hasn't been an easy one. Western Europe has struggled with energy shortages throughout the year, and summer heat exacerbated the problem. Crippling heat waves emerged in the UK, Spain, Portugal, and France, with all-time-high temperatures causing large wildfires and thousands of deaths.

The hot spell was particularly dangerous because many affected countries "are not really trained to deal with the heat," George Havenith, Professor of Environmental Physiology and Ergonomics of Loughborough University, recently told Insider.

Many businesses are already girding for a historic energy crisis. JPMorgan's European offices have carried out power outage simulations in recent weeks to prep for outages, Reuters reported Wednesday. Deutsche Bank told the outlet it turned off hot water in bathrooms and changing office temperatures to cut down on energy use. The Euronext stock exchange said it has backup generators ready in case blackouts hit.

The heat wave has since eased somewhat, but Russia's retaliation to energy embargoes kicked off a new stage of pain. The UK and EU haven't fully weaned themselves off of Russian gas yet, leaving energy in shorter supply as the Kremlin cuts off westward flows.


That's left residents paying up for their everyday power needs.Britain's energy regulator lifted its cap on annual energy bills to £3,549 — about $4,189 — starting October 1, nearly doubling the previous limit and up 178% from last winter.

The hike presents low-income Britons with an impossible choice: go into debt to maintain their basic energy use, or endure a blazing hot summer and frigid winter rife with blackouts and health hazards.

Prime Minister Liz Truss announced Thursday — only her third day in office — that the government will cap households' annual energy bills at £2,500 ($2,880) starting October 1, mitigating some of the effects of soaring costs. The British government will pay the remainder of the bill, and while the government hasn't announced the entire cost of the measure, it's likely to be one of the priciest economic interventions the UK has seen in decades.

Immediate solutions to the energy crisis are few and far between, but such price controls "must be on the table" to curbing inflation, Martin Wolf, chief economics commentator at the Financial Times, said in a Sunday column.


Yet as climate change rages on, the impetus to reinforce electrical grids with renewable power and efficient energy storage grows stronger.

"Unless we recognize the serious risks that climate change poses to our electrical system, we're likely to see more of these reliability issues," Webb said. "It's imperative that regulators, electric utilities, and system operators recognize that climate change is here."

Get ready for blackouts from London to LA, as the global energy crisis overwhelms grids and sends energy prices skyrocketing (2024)


Get ready for blackouts from London to LA, as the global energy crisis overwhelms grids and sends energy prices skyrocketing? ›

Get ready for blackouts from London to LA, as the global energy crisis overwhelms grids and sends energy prices skyrocketing. Climate change and soaring energy prices could make widespread blackouts more common, even in wealthy nations.

Why is the UK going to have blackouts? ›

A blackout happens when the power grid fails, and when more power is being consumed than generated. ​​Energy Secretary Claire Coutinho has said that the UK could face “blackouts” if it doesn't build new gas power stations.

What states are at high risk for blackouts? ›

Key Takeaways
  • Nevada had the most customers impacted by power outages per capita in the past 10 years (382,102).
  • Michigan had the most customers affected by power outages per capita in 2023 (21,746).
  • Texas, California, and Michigan had the most power outages in 2023.
  • Texas accounted for 13% of all 2023 power outages.

What would happen if the US power grid failed? ›

The consequences of power failure

The pumps bringing water to apartments and houses are dependent on electricity. This means that the water would seize to flow in high-rise buildings in case of a power outage. On lower floors, water availability will worsen as water towers run out of water.

Is the US power grid at risk? ›

The grids' virtual and physical weak spots, or points in software or hardware that are susceptible to cyber criminals, grew to a range of 23,000 to 24,000 last year from 21,000 to 22,000 by the end of 2022, executives with the energy regulator said.

Is the government going to cause a blackout? ›

The Verdict: No. The government will not be causing any blackouts for any upcoming tests. Turns out, this is false. The government is not going to shut down the grid.

How long do blackouts last in the UK? ›

Network areas are divided into 18 separate sub areas. These areas are then allocated a block letter based on their postcode. Each planned power outage is likely to last around three hours, and in emergency cases, this could be longer.

Which state has the weakest power grid? ›

Meanwhile, Louisiana electricity remains the least reliable in the nation. Between heat, hurricanes, and substandard systems, customers spend around 60 hours a year without power.

What state has the best power grid? ›

  • Illinois. #1 in Power Grid Reliability. ...
  • Nebraska. #2 in Power Grid Reliability. ...
  • Rhode Island. #3 in Power Grid Reliability. ...
  • Connecticut. #4 in Power Grid Reliability. ...
  • Delaware. #5 in Power Grid Reliability. ...
  • Florida. #6 in Power Grid Reliability. ...
  • Arizona. #7 in Power Grid Reliability. ...
  • Iowa. #8 in Power Grid Reliability.

Which state has the most power failures? ›

Almost one-quarter of 2022 power outages occurred in California. The state of California also came in first for the most power outages overall in the last 20 years: 2,684.

Which state has the most unreliable power grid? ›

Louisiana ranked as the least reliable power grid in the country with 4,811 minutes of power outage per customer each year.

How to survive a grid shut down? ›

How to Survive a Prolonged Power Outage
  1. Write Important Information on Paper. During an outage, your cell phone is your lifeline, and you'll want to keep it charged in case of an emergency.
  2. Use Gas to Cook Food That Will Spoil. ...
  3. If You Have a Generator, Use It Safely. ...
  4. No Generator? ...
  5. Check on Neighbors.
Aug 23, 2023

How to prepare if the power grid goes out? ›

Plan for batteries and other alternative power sources to meet your needs when the power goes out, such as a portable charger or power bank. Have flashlights for every household member. Determine whether your home phone will work in a power outage and how long battery backup will last.

What country has the weakest power grid? ›

South Sudan ranked as the least-electrified country in the world in 2021, with only 7.7 percent of its population having access to electricity.

Who owns the US power grid? ›

Q: Who owns the electric system? A: The electric system, which includes generation, transmission, and distribution, is owned by a mix of entities. For example, 192 Investor-Owned Utilities (IOUs) account for a significant portion of net generation (38%), transmission (80%), and distribution (50%).

Is America going to lose power? ›

A recent report from the North American Electric Reliability Corporation estimated that more than 300 million people in the U.S. and Canada could face power shortages in 2024. It also found that electricity demand is rising faster now than at any time in the past five years.

Is the UK going to have a blackout? ›

The National Grid has said that blackouts are “highly unlikely and very much a worst-case scenario”. The Government said the need for continued, unabated, gas generation into the 2030s as a back-up to ensure energy security and reduce costs had been recognised by independent advisers the Climate Change Committee.

Is UK at risk of blackouts? ›

In fact, new research has warned that delays to French-built nuclear power stations will leave the UK at risk of blackouts by 2028.

How likely are blackouts in the UK? ›

The National Grid have said that blackouts are 'highly unlikely and very much a worst-case scenario'.

Should I prepare for blackouts UK? ›

Preparing for blackouts – tips

Stock up on low-tech gadgets such as torches, extra batteries and candles. Resources such as lamps are really useful. Keep all tech charged and some additional power banks just in case. Emergency cool boxes and ice packs to keep food fresh.

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