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Gov’t and National Grid prepare for possible energy shortage

Energy supply expected to be sufficient but will get tighter over next few years

Brits will be asked to keep their consumption as low as possible over the winter

The government and the National Grid are reportedly working on a plan that would see emergency measures put in place to protect consumers and businesses from blackouts in the event of an electricity shortage.

The news comes just weeks after Westminster and the National Grid gave assurances that the lights would not go out this winter, despite the latter admitting that energy supplies will be pushed to the limit throughout winter.

Consumers asked to power down

As part of the measures, the two parties are working on incentivising energy customers to turn off their power at times of peak usage to help ease demand and give a better chance of avoiding blackouts.

Speaking to the Telegraph, Steve Holliday, chief executive of The National Grid, said that the UK could be working with an energy surplus of as little as 5% this winter. This will leave supplies dangerously close to running empty if another cold winter such as those experienced in 2010 and 2011 takes place.

“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,” Holliday said.

National Grid plays down threat

However, while the Grid has admitted there are some worries over supplies for this winter, Holliday remains confident that blackouts will be avoided.

He added that the system is not as secure as last year, telling the Telegraph: “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.”

The government has also expressed fears in recent weeks, with the prime minister’s Council for Science and Technology saying that next year will see supplies under even more pressure than they currently are.

The report said that while surplus will run at around 5% this year, next winter will see even bigger risks, with the UK sitting with just 2% as a buffer.

“Although the electricity supply is expected to be sufficient to cover predicted levels of demand, it is likely to stretch the system close to its limits, notably during the winter of 2014-15,” the report said.

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