The last serious energy crisis that the UK suffered was in 1973 with a huge hike in the cost of oil, driven by OPEC, immediately followed by the 3 Day Week.

I recall that the WHSmith’s store in Slough initially used gas lanterns and torches, before the manager hired a circus diesel generator with festoons of light bulbs around the store. The 3 Day Week crisis was a failure of industrial relations and was brought to an end by a new government and then industry got back to normal. What I do recall is that the regular power cuts were very disruptive to trade.

The next energy crisis may be more difficult to solve, as there have been stories in the press for many years warning about potential shortages of power generation capacity in the future. It seems that the UK hasn’t been planning and building cleaner power plants quickly enough. The decision to give the go ahead for the Hinkley C nuclear power station was delayed for years. This newspaper article suggests that the UK may start to experience an electricity generation short fall as early as next year.

In 1973 WHsmith’s used Gross electric cash registers that had a manual facility that enabled them to function during a power cut. Today, practically every store uses electronic tills or EPoS and the emergency procedure that I adopted in my store was a pen and paper to list what we sold. Hardly professional. Battery backup is okay for a short stoppage in power as it allows for an orderly close down of tills and computers, but will not cover a longer power failure.

Mo Razzaq’s investment in solar power is certainly a major step to ensuring that he has up to 10KW of electrical power during daylight hours. But he has also designed his Family Shopper to use less power as he installed low energy refrigeration and LED lighting. His chill cabinets have doors that improve their efficiency.

Another member of the betterRetailing team who has taken action to reduce their power consumption is Dan Cock. Last year, he called in energy management consultants, EnviroGlow to survey his store for energy savings that he could make. They recommended several changes that required an £8,000 investment, which has led to almost £4,000 saving on power costs over the first year.

With electricity likely to become more expensive over the next 5 years and beyond, following Mo and Dan’s example would be well worth considering.

Do you have an uninterruptible power supply for your important computer equipment?

Do you renegotiate your utility contracts every year to ensure you are getting the best deal?

Do you have a power failure plan for your business?

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