Britain’s ageing power network is holding back the country’s industrial base with a quarter of manufacturers rating it as inadequate, with some of them fearing they could face damaging energy shortages.
A fifth of them are calling on the Government to make upgrading Britain’s power supplies the top priority when it comes to investing in infrastructure, according to research by EEF, the trade association for Britain’s manufacturers.
The finding comes just weeks after a fire at Didcot B, a gas-fired power station in Oxfordshire, raised the spectre of Britain facing blackouts and surging energy prices this winter.
In September National Grid said it was preparing emergency measures to fire up mothballed power plants as a last resort in an attempt to keep the UK’s lights on.
Terry Scuoler, EEF chief executive, said: “The fact we’ve had to introduce emergency measures to keep the lights on is testament to the failure of successive governments to grasp the nettle and plan more effectively to support the UK’s energy infrastructure.
“While we may have limited spare capacity this winter the real concern remains for next year when the margin is due to drop even further.
“A particularly cold winter, unfavourable conditions for renewable generation and unexpected closure of power stations could leave domestic and industrial users very exposed to power shortages.”
The precarious nature of the UK’s energy supply was highlighted when In October when a fire at Dicot power station cut the country’s reserve generation capacity to a narrow margin.
How Britain’s power plants are shutting down
Manufacturers have long complained about the high cost of energy in the UK compared with charges faced by competitors abroad, and EEF has also attacked what its chairman Martin Temple called the “insane economics” of power pricing policies.