Programme Yarrow has warned that a nationwide blackout would severely impact the lives of people and organizations across multiple sectors
What would happen if the UK were to experience a week-long power outage across the entire political union? Will the government be able to function? What sectors will be disrupted? How much of a hit will the communication system take? The United Kingdom has been coming up with “reasonable worst-case scenarios” in case of a nationwide blackout, and it is stress testing its contingency plans against those scenarios. The blueprint of this contingency plan, named Programme Yarrow, is expected to provide a roadmap of possible actions to prevent, manage and come out of a probable nationwide blackout.
What Is Programme Yarrow?
Programme Yarrow is the roadmap of the contingency plan charted out by the UK government to analyze how a possible week-long power outage would affect the country and how to manage its consequences.
Programme Yarrow has warned that a nationwide blackout would severely impact the lives of people and organizations across multiple sectors. From transport to food and water supply, from radio and tv to other energy-consuming industries- the blackout is going to impact these sectors more severely.
The program warns that in the worst-case scenario, digital radios would be useless, and only the analog ones would remain functional. Among the radio stations, only BBC 2 and 4 would be in operation.
Why Is the Situation So Grim?
After the sanctions imposed on Russia, the country has been slowly reducing its energy exports to Europe- partly because of the sanctions and partly as a geopolitical strategy. The matter got worse when Nord Stream 1 – the main pipeline that carries gas to Europe from Russia was sabotaged by unknown actors; Russian gas export had fallen by 89% compared to the previous year. Unfortunately for Europe, 40% of its energy needs were met by Russia. Now with this sudden halt in the flow of gas to Europe, the latter finds itself in a tricky situation.
Sure, there are other sources from where the EU can buy energy. However, it takes time to switch from one supplier country to another. On top of that, the energy crisis resulting from the war has resulted in dramatically high energy prices. Russian gas prices increased by almost 30% after the Nord Stream 1 sabotage. High energy prices are further adding to the woes of Europe.
How Does the Programme Yarrow Aim to Manage the Blackouts?
Among many measures, what we know so far is that the government will focus on three things in case a nationwide week-long blackout happens-
- Food to the elderly and children
- Establishing communication with citizens
- Scheduled Blackouts
In case the energy crisis deepens in the harsh winter of the UK, the first priority of the government and councils is to provide food, water and shelter to children and the elderly. Reports suggest that the government and councils took part in a series of drills to stress test Programme Yarrow.
Since most local radio stations won’t have the resources to keep their lights on, BBC 2 and 4 would be the main medium of communication between the government and the citizens. In fact, it is believed that the BBC has a script ready to be read in case of a severe blackout.
The government has also planned for intermittent access to electric supply in less severe instances. In the case of a severe energy crisis, UK households can experience 3-hour rolling blackouts as well.
The Silver Line
Although the description of Programme Yarrow looks like a script from an apocalyptic movie, it is to be noted that the programme came into effect in 2021 before the Ukraine war. It is hoped that most of the extreme scenarios won’t play out. Having said that, ordinary Britons will experience power shortage in one form or the other- there is no sugarcoating it.