Millions of Britons face winter power cuts
BRITAIN faces a “real risk” of blackouts this winter because reserve supplies of electricity are running dangerously low, experts warned last night.
The National Grid’s Winter Outlook report reveals they stand at just five per cent – almost half last year’s level and the lowest since 2007.
It has raised fears that millions of homes may be plunged into darkness this winter.
Ian Fells, emeritus professor of energy conversion at Newcastle University, said the country faces a “very serious” situation.
He said a reserve margin of 20 per cent was generally regarded as necessary for safety. Anything lower raised the risk of blackouts.
Prof Fells said: “This is a dangerously low margin and reveals a real risk of things running out. Even with a margin of 20 per cent, reserves are stretched during a very cold spell and could run out. If there is a problem with power stations this margin just isn’t enough.”
He said the network was having to rely on power stations which should have been closed and replaced.
“The Government has known about this but done nothing about it. Nobody is building new power stations and we will have to rely on coal-fired plants when they are supposed to have been closed down.”
The report said electricity margins had “decreased from historically high levels over the last few years”. It blamed EU emissions legislation for the fall, but insisted it had “a diverse range of import capacity” to avoid the lights going out. The report said: “This has been driven by the effects of the Large Combustion Plant Directive legislation and economic pressure on older gas-fired power stations (which has caused them to close).
“Whilst our central forecast of margin is 5 per cent against ACS [Average Cold Spell] demand, actual margins will depend on demand [and] generator availability.”
Chris Train, National Grid’s director of market operations, insisted there were enough reserves to cope with a harsh winter.
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