Blackout alert: Offices and factories to undergo 1970s-style electricity rationing this winter to stop households being plunged into darkness
- Businesses will be offered compensation to shut down for four hours a day
- National Grid had planned to introduce this measure in winter of 2015
- Fires and other setbacks put some of UK’s biggest generators out of service
- Two nuclear power plants are offline and unlikely to be running in time for start of colder weather
- National Grid has a budget of £800million to control supply and demand within the power network
Emergency measures will be introduced to prevent the lights going out this winter.
Offices and factories will be offered compensation to undergo 1970s-style energy rationing and shut down for up to four hours a day to prevent households being plunged into darkness.
In addition, owners of old power stations will be asked to switch them back on to meet the country’s demands.
National Grid had not planned to use this option until next winter. But yesterday it revealed a series of fires and setbacks had knocked some of the UK’s biggest generators out of service. Two nuclear power plants are also offline, and are unlikely to be running in time for the start of the colder weather.
Fires at coal stations in Ferrybridge in West Yorkshire and Ironbridge, Shropshire, have put the sites out of action, while a gas station in Barking, Essex, has been closed since the summer.
Industry regulator Ofgem welcomed the measures. It has already warned that the gap between household demand for energy and the amount our power stations can supply is dangerously low.
Under the powers, businesses that sign up will be ‘bribed’ to shut down between 4pm and 8pm on any day between November and February.
They will be paid a retainer during the four months, even if they are never called on to close early. If they do shut down, they will be paid above the market rate for electricity they do not use.
The second measure, which has never before been used in Britain, would see the resurrection of power stations that have been closed but not yet dismantled. National Grid yesterday contacted the owners of recently closed plants to see if they could be running in time for winter.
The majority of these are gas stations, though it is believed some coal or oil plants could also be asked to take part.
Plant owners would be paid the costs of resurrecting their stations – which could run into tens of millions of pounds. Once running, they would be required to be available between 6am and 8pm between November and February. They will also be paid more than the market rate for their electricity by National Grid, which said yesterday that both measures would be used only as a ‘last resort’.
National Grid, which has a budget of £800million to control supply and demand within the power network, added that the measures would add only £1 to household bills.
Energy analyst Angelos Anastasiou, of Whitman Howard bank, said the measures were ‘unprecedented’. He added: ‘It would cost quite a bit. You would need to get a lot of staff back on site, and would need out carry out trials before you can get it up and running. It could run into tens of millions, depending how many stations you needed to bring back.’
With Britain’s economy on the mend, demand for energy is set to increase as manufacturing grows and businesses expand.
Factory output has risen steadily in the past year, and manufacturing growth in 2014 is expected to be the fastest since 2010.
Analyst Peter Atherton at Liberum Capital said the past three winters had seen almost all of the UK’s power stations running smoothly, which had lulled regulators and ministers into a false sense of security.
He added: ‘The Government has been crossing its fingers and hoping that it’s all fine. It’s blindingly obvious that if you have a tight market then you will be more vulnerable to shocks.’
An Ofgem spokesman said: ‘We are confident that National Grid has the right levers to keep the lights on.
‘However, no electricity system anywhere in the world can give a 100 per cent guarantee that the lights will stay on.’
‘It would cost quite a bit.’
Information taken from dailymail.co.uk/news on 04/09/2014