Concerns have been raised over Britain’s electricity supply on Monday and Tuesday evenings, after two separate indications that trouble may be coming.
The National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO) sent out and then rapidly cancelled a notice that said the difference between the supply and amount of electricity actually available would be smaller than hoped for on 28 November and 29 November. The Capacity Market Notice was issued at 1.33pm, warning of a tight grid at 6pm, before it was cancelled at 2.04pm.
Alerts are broadcast automatically when expected margins between demand and supply drop to a certain level, but do not mean blackouts are likely by themselves.
ESO also issued a statement earlier today that said it was considering paying households across the country to reduce their energy use to help out on Tuesday. The operator admitted it was contemplating activating the first ever live run of its Demand Flexibility Service, which was created to avoid blackouts, and asks households to reduce the amount of electricity they use at certain times and promises to pay them for any reductions they make.
But once again, National Grid circled back on this statement - saying this afternoon that it will no longer implement its blackout prevention scheme. The backtracking may have allayed some anxiety, but for many, two alerts in such quick succession have only fuelled fears surrounding the UK’s energy supply.
Despite this, it’s worth noting that all 12 capacity market notices that the grid has put out have been cancelled without issue in the last six years. Admittedly however, the notices have become more common this year as Europe goes through an energy crisis.
These particular notices came amidst forecasts that projected a large drop in the amount of power that Britain will be able to import from France, which will mean that the difference between the amount of electricity available for households and businesses and the amount they will use during peak times will be tight. There were also warnings that margins will be tight for both countries on Monday, so energy will need to be imported from abroad.
France has been facing months of problems with its nuclear power plants, which generate around three quarters of the country’s electricity. More than half of the nuclear reactors run by state energy company EDF have closed due to maintenance problems and technical issues, only adding to the energy crisis in Europe as the country faces a winter without its old gas supplier Russia.
EnergyAppSys, a consulting agency, commented: “Even though wind is coming back for tomorrow evening’s peak, slow return of nukes in France plus lower temperatures may mean that there is a reduction in available imports across the interconnectors.”
Earlier this month, National Grid CEO John Pettigrew warned of the possibility of scheduled blackouts, but added the caveat that this is very much a “reasonable worst-case scenario” and the company is “cautiously confident” the UK will be able to weather the winter months without taking this drastic action.
The government is already working on a confidential plan, known as Programme Yarrow, which will map out how to keep the UK running in case of a blackout scenario this winter.