National Grid is recruiting cash-strapped NHS hospitals to fire up their emergency generators and turn down their air conditioning systems when power supplies are scarce.
The company, which is responsible for balancing UK supply and demand, wants to make more use of “demand side response” schemes, in which energy users are paid to temporarily reduce the amount of power they draw from the grid.
Cordi O’Hara, head of the UK system operator at National Grid, said it believed the NHS had potential to cut its demand on the Grid by up to 400 megawatts (MW) – so freeing up enough electricity to power homes in a city the size of Edinburgh.
Several hospitals are already taking part in the embryonic demand side response industry and National Grid has just held talks with the Crown Commercial Service, which helps manage energy procurement for the NHS, to sign up more.
Ms O’Hara argues that demand reduction represents a cheaper way of meeting peak power demand and keeping the lights on as Britain builds more wind and solar farms which generate power intermittently rather than simply constructing lots of extra power plants that will rarely be used.