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National Grid warns of possible winter power shortage



National Grid, the UK’s gas and electricity supplier and distributor, has called on energy firms to declare the amount of power reserves they can provide to cover peak winter times, as a precaution to avoid energy shortages during an “uncertain” season.

National Grid has launched a tender for its Supplemental Balancing Reserve (SBR), asking energy companies to disclose how much electricity they can supply in case of power shortage during the winter.

The measure, defined as “precautionary”, is supported by both energy watchdog Ofgem and the government and comes after energy secretary Ed Davey warned that Britain will face power shortages in coming winters.

Cordi O’Hara, National Grid’s director of UK market operations said, “This is a sensible precaution to take while the picture for this winter remains uncertain.  At this stage we don’t know if these reserve services will be needed, but they could provide an additional safeguard.

The National Grid has also launched the Demand Side Balancing Reserve (DSBR) service, which allows large energy users to reduce their demand or run other sources of generation during peak winter periods. 

“We have had a very positive response to the DSBR pilot and plan to offer contracts to the successful parties in September. Tendering for Supplemental Balancing Reserve will enable us to see what additional reserves can be provided by generators at a competitive cost”, O’Hara added.

An Ofgem spokesman added, “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% guarantee that the lights will stay on.

Last year, there were fears of power shortages during the winter as old polluting power plants were closing down, widening the gap between demand and production of electricity. However, the winter was relatively mild.

Nevertheless, experts have suggested that Britain must invest heavily in domestic energy generation to avoid power shortages over the coming years, and also in the light of tensions with Russia over the Ukrainian crisis, which may affect gas supplies.

Photo: Ewan Munro via Flickr

Further reading:

Power shortage warnings show need for effective national energy reduction

National Grid warms up for World Cup energy demand surge

UK needs ‘major investment’ to avoid electricity shortages

National Grid warns over winter blackout risk in UK

The Guide to Sustainable Clean Energy 2014