Households must fork out an extra £36million to keep the lights on this winter as the risk of blackouts increases after power stations are closed
- Power grid has just 1.2% of spare capacity during peak winter demand
- Bosses are putting old plants on standby and paying firms to shut down
- The measures will cost £36million meaning 50p added to every energy bill
- Crunch comes as a result of coal and gas power stations being closed
Households face higher energy bills this winter as power chiefs have been forced to spend £36million protecting against the risk of winter blackouts.
So many power plants have closed recently that the grid will be dangerously close to full capacity during periods of peak demand in the winter months.
National Grid has announced that it is spending millions putting mothballed plants on standby, and will pay companies to shut down their factories when the grid is overloaded.
Network: National Grid is spending £36million on emergency measures to ensure the power supply doesn’t fail
Without the new emergency measures, the grid would have had just 1.2 per cent of spare capacity during the coldest, darkest evenings in the coming winter.
The company said that if the country were hit with unusually cold weather, the network would risk becoming overloaded, leading to widespread blackouts.
The £36million insurance measures will secure an extra 2.56 gigawatts of power, boosting the capacity margin to 5.1 per cent, according to National Grid.
However, the cost will be passed on to consumers, with an average rise of 50p for every household’s energy bill.
Cordi O’Hara, National Grid’s director of market operation, said: ‘It’s clear that electricity margins for that coldest, darkest half hour of winter are currently tighter than they have been, due to power station closures.
‘As system operator, we feel we’ve taken a sensible precaution again this winter to buy some extra services.
‘Together with the tools we already use to balance the network these additional services will significantly increase the energy reserve available this winter.’
Out of action: The closure of power plants such as Ferrybridge, pictured, has led to an electricity crunch
Last year, the capacity margin was 6.1 per cent including a number of extra precautions, but because of the mild weather there was no crunch in the power supply.
Since then, power plants such as Barking, Ferrybridge and Littlebrook have stopped operating, putting added pressure on the electricity network.
A few years ago, the gap between demand and capacity was as high as 16.8 per cent.
Analysts have blamed the Government drive to curb carbon emissions by shutting down coal and gas plants, without putting in place sufficient greeen alternatives to keep the supply steady.
Archna Luthra, an energy expert at advice website moneysavingexpert.com, said the news would squeeze hard-pressed consumers even more.
‘Any sort of energy price rise is unwelcome, even if it does mean the grid can cope with peaks of energy demand,’ she said.
‘But the truth is many are already massively overpaying. Last week the CMA report found that 70 per cent of people are languishing on expensive fixed tariffs.’
Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom said: ‘Our priority is to ensure that British families and business have access to secure affordable energy supplies that they can rely on.
‘National Grid have confirmed that our plan to power the economy is working – and it means that the lights will stay on this winter as well as making sure our homes and businesses have the gas and electricity they need in the future.’
Some experts blamed National Grid for failing to update Britain’s energy network in line with the country’s needs.
Alexander Temerko of engineering firm OGN Group said: ‘The real problem is the UK’s ageing infrastructure. The National Grid has effectively been part of the problem rather than of the solution.
‘Despite their mandate of managing a reliable and forward-looking power grid, they have failed to invest in future-proofing and have actually driven the grid to a state where no new capacity can be added without major upgrades.’