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Energy Minister: Britain’s lights will stay on

Despite warnings from energy regulator Ofgem, Fallon promises no blackouts

light bulb onEnergy minister Michael Fallon has promised that Britain will not suffer from blackouts, amid warnings from energy regulator Ofgem.

Energy minister Michael Fallon has vowed that Britain’s lights will stay on, despite Ofgem’s warnings that the nation could face blackouts from the middle of the decade.

Mr Fallon denied claims that businesses would be asked to switch their power off for some periods, telling BBC’s Newsnight: “I can assure you, the lights are not going to go out.”

“The latest assessment has shown that the position is slightly worse than the previous assessment last year…”, Mr Fallon said. He added that the regulator Ofgem has got to use “all the tools at its disposal” to make sure that the lights stay on and that “mothball plants” are brought back in action.

DECC: Steps will be taken to avoid blackouts

A spokesperson from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) added that if necessary, steps will be taken to avoid blackouts, such as bringing dormant power plants back online to ensure there is enough power in the short term.

“Power is not going to be rationed and businesses are not going to be forced to switch off,” he said.

“A capacity market will ensure we have enough power in the longer term.”

Britain could face blackouts as soon as 2015

These comments came in response to an Ofgem report which warned the UK could face power-blackouts by 2015, unless the industry works to combat its depleting electricity supplies effectively.

This diminished backup of energy stores is in part due to the closure of power stations as the coalition works to slash the nation’s emissions. In addition, the global financial crisis and Britain’s increasing dependency on imported gas are also contributory factors.

Ofgem has said that more investment in power generation is needed to stop the lights going out, with the energy regulator’s chief Andrew Wright warning the companies are facing an “unprecedented challenge to secure supplies”.

The regulator explained: “Analysis indicates a faster than anticipated tightening of electricity margins toward the middle of this decade. Preventative action now will help protect consumer supplies.”

Margins between electricity supply and demand could be as low as two per cent by the 2015/16, it warned, however disruption to supply is not “imminent or likely” as long as the industry manages the situation carefully.

Government ‘must invest in energy generation’

Mr Wright also called for the government to invest in generation, saying that the regulator welcomes DECC’s commitment to introduce a capacity market that will provide a longer-term solution to this problem.

Among the proposed measures is that the National Grid, which runs power transmission lines, could ask companies to cut their electricity at times that demand soars. However, this could impact significantly on industry.

Ed Davey, energy secretary, has said he is putting measures in place that will counter the threat, however, he did admit that if timely action is not taken, there would be risks to the security of supply.

Ofgem, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and the National Grid agree that it is now prudent to consider giving the National Grid additional tools which would help them to procure electricity supplies to protect consumers.

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