National Grid, the company in charge of Britain’s energy network, just published its winter outlook, and what it says is really worrying.
Figures show that the gap between supply and demand for electricity will be just 1.2% at peak times this winter. This is the smallest in a decade, according to National Grid.
The smaller the gap, the more likely that blackouts and energy losses will happen.
The company pointed out that it has emergency measures that mean the gap will be widened to 5.1%, but even this is way lower than the normal margin. This means that there is a distinct possibility that people could find themselves without electicity for a length of time.
The emergency measures include re-opening old, disused power stations for short periods of time.
“Electricity margins are manageable throughout the winter period and we believe we have the right tools in place to manage the system,” said Cordi O’Hara, National Grid’s director of UK Market Operations.
But margins are so low that power shortages could be a reality this winter, especially during peak times – for example during breaks in major televised events like football matches.
In an interview with the Financial Times last week, Keith Anderson, the boss of Scottish Power, one of Britain’s biggest energy suppliers warned that National Grid would “start going to various industries or large users and saying: at certain times of the year, or at certain days, or at certain times of the day, switch off the energy please, because we don’t have enough” if it does not come up with a solution to the tightening gap between supply and demand for energy.
Now it looks like Anderson was right, and today’s report says that there is an “increased likelihood” that National Grid will have to pay some bigger factories to shut down their operations on weekday nights to make sure that the general public gets enough electricity.