After several warnings over energy supply, should Britain expect blackouts this winter?

The UK’s energy security rating has been downgraded: time to get out the candles (Source: Getty)

Lord Redesdale, head of the Energy Managers’ Association, says Yes.

I wholly expect blackouts or brownouts this winter. Last year, there was a capacity margin of just 1.5 per cent in London. Last month, National Grid asked firms to reduce their power demand immediately, issuing a demand-side balancing reserve (DSBR) notice.

This was in the third mildest November on record. We do not have enough generating capacity, especially as coal power plants are closing, with two more to shut down in March.

They have been burned out early because coal was cheap due to the falling price caused by fracking in the US. What is the alternative? Renewables have been built at an astonishing rate, but the chancellor's policies mean very little will be built over the next few years to fill the supply demand gap.

New nuclear plants, such as Hinkley Point C, will only come online in the mid 2020s. Most of the present nuclear fleet is coming to the end of its life. There is a solution to the energy shortage, namely energy efficiency.

The UK wastes 40 per cent of its power. Companies could make these savings but there is a major lack of energy managers and investment. The UK’s energy security rating has been downgraded: time to get out the candles.

Jon Ferris, head of energy markets at Utilitywise, says No.

While it is easy to see where the concern stems from, I am confident that the UK will not suffer electricity blackouts this winter. There are several factors behind my conviction.

These include the reopening of mothballed gas plants following the fall in gas prices and the decade-long reduction in underlying demand.

Furthermore, additional regulatory change will come into effect this winter which will increase business awareness of energy costs even further. Finally, while National Grid is clearly under pressure, it has been evolving in tandem with the changes in generation, and it has now developed better forecasting tools and introduced new services to balance the system.

It’s not impossible that National Grid will have to issue a demand control notice for distribution network operators to reduce demand across their networks, but I firmly believe that it is highly unlikely that this will be the case – for this winter at least.

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