The UK’s electricity supply could be tight at times this winter but there should be sufficient supplies to meet demand, revealed the body tasked with balancing the country’s grid.
In its latest report ahead of winter, the National Grid’s Electricity System Operator (NGESO) has forecast that margins might narrow significantly towards the very end of the year, however it expects there will be sufficient power to keep the lights on.
It said: “We expect there to be sufficient available capacity to respond to these market signals to meet consumer demand.”
NGESO’s operational modelling indicates tight periods are most likely to occur in the first half of December.
Its base-case scenario assumes that the UK’s interconnectors to Netherlands and Belgium are able to provide 5.7 GW of net imports when the country needs it.
This includes 2.7 GW of additional interconnector capacity that was not available last winter.
Nevertheless, it expects there to be plenty of electricity available to run the system this winter, with a forecast buffer capacity of four gigawatts – 6.7 per cent.
During the heatwave last week, the National Grid was forced to pay record sums to secure energy to avoid power shortages.
This culminated with NGESO paying an all-time high of £9,724 per MWh last Wednesday to import power from Belgium, according to data from market analyst EnAppSys – as first reported in The Telegraph.
The National Grid has to ensure it has enough electricity generators online when demand for electricity peaks, meaning it has to maintain a margin above forecast demand to deal with any short spikes.
If the margin falls below certain levels, NGESO will send out a so-called Electricity Margin Notice (EMN).
This lets generators know that more electricity is needed.
NGESO has revealed it might need to use the EMNs this winter to ensure supply is stable.
It said: “We may need to use our standard operational tools to manage these periods should they occur which, for example, may mean issuing EMNs.”
The group also explained it is working closely with transmission owners to minimise the impact of network outages this winter, in case they should arise.
While supplies are hopefully secure this winter, NGESO has warned that Europe’s dependence on Russian gas means that “cessation of flows of gas into Europe could have knock-on impacts.”
This includes very high wholesale costs, with the latest forecast from Cornwall Insight predicting the consumer price cap will climb to £3,500 per year in October.
Meanwhile, NGESO has worked with the Government to ensure that four coal power stations are still ready to use if they need to be called on this winter – they are working on a fifth, which is being operated by Uniper.
It is also “exploring options” to incentivise energy users to reduce their use during peak times, as first reported in The Times last month.