Friday, 21 June 2024

Will the lights stay on?

The dream scenario of a place in the World Cup final for Roy Hodgson and his England team could prove a nightmare for National Grid when it comes to ensuring uninterrupted power supplies.

Ed Davey, Energy and Climate Change Secretary, said today he was confident Britain has enough energy capacity to keep televisions running in the unlikely event that the national game shows any sign of coming home.

If England were to reach the final – which kicks off at 8pm UK time on Sunday, 13 July – power demand could outstrip royal weddings and beat the previous record of 1999 when a solar eclipse caused a surge equivalent to 1.3m kettles being turned on simultaneously.

Davey issued the promise at today’s Economist Energy 2014 Conference in London but warned at the same time that Britain may have to use “last resort” measures to avoid winter blackouts in the next two winters.

“I can report that National Grid have assured me that the UK has enough electricity generating capacity ready to meet any World Cup spike – through the group stages and beyond to history,” he stated.

“Since the 1970s we have grown used to uninterrupted supplies of power,” Davey said. “But historic under-investment in the UK’s electricity market means that without intervention the risk of disruption will grow, Davey said.

He described the UK as the fourth most energy-secure country worldwide but warned that energy security is likely to deteriorate over the next decade as global demand goes up and the UK’s North Sea reserves decline further.

New offshore wind farms and nuclear reactors take time to build and so National Grid has worked with Ofgem to put in place new ‘balancing’ measures to help ensure the lights stay on.

Power stations that would otherwise be closed or mothballed will be kept in reserve and National Grid will extend existing measures to reward more large energy users which have the flexibility to reduce power use at peak times.

Davey stressed that participation in this would be “entirely voluntary” and no company will ever be asked or required to take part.

Companies that do, however, will get a payment as well as benefiting from a reduction in their energy costs.

With these and our other measures in place, both Ofgem and National Grid are confident that the risk of supply disruption will remain at very low.

National Grid says it will invite businesses to bid for inclusion in a programme that pays them to reduce their power use on winter weekday evenings.

Tenders may be required for two more winters but National Grid expects possible shortfalls to be eliminated by the winter of 2018/19 when the government’s plan for a capacity market should be working fully.

Davey and the National Grid  know that a power blackout during the World Cup final would be unacceptable on any terms – particularly if our national team were to beat all the odds and expectations.

But this autumn storm clouds will loom on the horizon. And the government seems to be taking every opportunity to get us accustomed to the idea that power cuts are not just a thing of the past.

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