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Britain Plans Emergency Measures To Prevent Blackouts

Katherine Rushton, The Daily Telegraph

The Government and the National Grid are developing emergency measures to prevent blackouts across Britain, as the country’s energy supply faces its biggest strain in years.

Users will be financially incentivised to turn their power off for short periods at peak times, easing the burden on the national system, while energy companies that had planned to decommission power plants will be paid to “bring them back up and running at times of stress”.

Steve Holliday, chief executive of The National Grid, said that the measures were necessary to prevent blackouts across Britain, following a dramatic fall in the amount of coal-burning power plants that are in operation.

The drop in power generation means that Britain will be running with a buffer of just 5pc this winter, the lowest reserve energy supplies since 2007. That figure could drop even lower in 2014 and 2015 as more and more power stations fall out of operation.

“Things will continue to get tight in the next two years because the electricity market reform does not really incentivise a lot of new generation until the year after that. There are a couple of extra tools that are being developed at the moment, that will incentivise people who would like to make a bit of money to reduce their demand – only occasionally, when we have peak demand. That will help us to balance the system.

“We’re taking action with the government and with Ofgem [the industry regulator] to reinforce the armoury in case things are tighter,” he said in an interview with The Daily Telegraph.

The Grid has already warned that reserve supplies of electricirty are wafer thin this winter, putting the country at its highest risk of a blackout since 2007.

Mr Holliday downplayed the odds of Britain being plunged into darkness but admitted that the country’s energy supply was not as “robust” as in the past.

“A year ago, we had a certain amount of generation that was available. Twelve months on, 6,800 megawatts (MW) of generation has shut in the UK. At the same time, only about 1,000MW has started up, so clearly we have significantly less generation available today than a year ago. The reality is that if things are tighter, they are not as robust as they might have been 12 months ago.

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