The risk of the lights going out has fallen ahead of this winter and is almost back to the pre-energy crisis normal, a new report from the National Grid has found.
National Grid’s Electricity System Operator (ESO) said on Thursday that it only expects there to be around six minutes between the end of October and the end of March where it might have to resort to special measures to keep the grid running smoothly.
In a report ahead of winter, when colder darker days mean people use more energy, the ESO said it expects the margin for this winter to be 4.4 gigawatts (GW).
That measures the average difference between how much electricity wind farms, gas power plants and others can supply and how much households and businesses will want to use.
It is a margin of 7.4 per cent, and is significantly higher than the 3.7 GW that the grid had to play with last year.
This means the period when demand might outstrip supply will be just around 0.1 hours, or six minutes, during the five-month period, down from 0.2 hours last winter.
But the ESO has plans to deal with this. Should it get to this stage the grid operator springs into action and lets potential generators know they should fire up, or use other tools to ensure that the grid stays stable.
“It’s not benign, but compared to last year it is almost going back to around where it was before last winter,” said Craig Dyke, the ESO’s head of national control.
“So the risks that we talked about last year, the probability of them occurring, are much, much lower.”
A Government spokesperson said: “These outlooks show we are in an even stronger position going into this winter than last, thanks to the efforts we have made to boost our energy security, with our system operators expecting there to be sufficient gas supply and electricity capacity to meet demand.
“We are confident in our plans to protect families and businesses in a wide range of scenarios, but we are not complacent and will continue to work closely with energy partners at home and abroad.”
Meanwhile National Gas, which runs the gas grid, said it expects gas consumption to be broadly stable this year. Homes will use more gas, but less will be burnt to produce electricity, it said.
It added that undersea pipelines will not transport as much gas from Great Britain to Europe as they did last year.
Last year, cut off from Russian gas, European countries imported gas from Britain that had come to the country by ship or from one of the UK’s pipelines from Norway.
This winter Britain will be likely to need gas imported from the European Union during cold spells to keep heating homes. Otherwise it will largely rely on gas imported by ship – so called liquid natural gas (LNG) – or from Norway.
“Britain benefits from diverse and flexible sources of gas, supported by pipeline infrastructure that has capacity exceeding anticipated peak demand,” said Ian Radley, system operations director at National Gas.
“Based on our current market view we expect that LNG and GB storage will continue to act as the primary sources of flexible supply to Britain this winter, supplemented by significant UK continental shelf and Norwegian supplies.
“Whilst the outlook is generally more favourable than last winter, we remain alert to the risks that are present and will continue to monitor this international market.”