National Grid prepares for extra power demand as UK faces highest risk of blackouts in nine years

Suzie Neuwirth
National Grid will likely bring extra power online to cope with demand (Source: Getty)

National Grid said it is more likely to bring extra power online this winter, as the country faces its highest risk of blackouts in almost a decade.

In its Winter Outlook report, the network operator confirmed that the reserve margin – the buffer of extra energy supply compared to demand – would narrow to 1.2 per cent this winter, down from three per cent last year.

It has contracted extra balancing services of 2.4GW for this winter, which include having mothballed plants on standby and paying businesses to use less power at peak times.

But analysts warn that the risk of blackouts is worsening, as three large coal plants will be shut down early next year.

“Next winter is the worry as 5,200MW of coal plants will close in March 2016,” said Peter Atherton, managing director at Jefferies. “[The margin] could go into negative territory.”

National Grid declined to comment on next year's margin forecasts.

Energy secretary Amber Rudd said: “Keeping the lights on is non-negotiable. National Grid has the right tools in place to manage the system this winter and we will ensure that they continue to do so in future.”