UK faces winter power rationing as risk of blackouts rises

Industrial users of electricity would be first to face usage restrictions

Whitehall Editor

The risk of electricity shortages this winter is at its highest level for nearly 10 years, National Grid warned today, with the situation likely to get worse before it gets better.

The company said that in a cold winter, the UK's electricity “margin”, or safety buffer, would be just five per cent - almost half last year’s level and the lowest since early in 2007.

But the company insisted it was wrong to say Britain faced blackouts and was confident extra energy would flow from the Continent if the country risked a supply shortage.

In the event of potential shortfalls industrial users of electricity would be the first face usage restrictions.

Chris Train, director of market operations for the grid, told an industry conference that “things will be tighter than they have been historically.”

But he would not comment on the likelihood manufacturers may be forced to cut back on their electricity or gas use at times of peak demand.

In its 2013/14 winter outlook report, National Grid said its central forecast was for an electricity margin of five per cent during peak demand in cold weather, broadly in line with previous analysis. A spare eight per cent capacity was forecast for average temperatures.

Margins have been falling over the past few years, due to new laws on power station emissions and economic pressure to mothball old gas-fired power stations.

This has only partially been offset by a fall in peak demands amid energy saving measures and declining heavy industry, together with increasing wind generation and some new gas-fired power stations.

Mr Train said the latest report took into account a range of data based on experience, historical information and feedback from the market.

He said: “While there have been power station closures since last winter, the information suggests that the market can meet demand in cold weather.

“But as the system operator, we're never complacent and it's up to us to be ready to balance the system in real time. We believe we are ready and have the tools we need to play our part.“

Concern about energy supply has been fuelled by reports that gas stores were driven “dangerously low” during the prolonged cold spell in March. However the new National Grid report said gas storage has increased since last year.

There is also ongoing public concern about high prices and profits made by the big energy firms amid a continuing squeeze on household incomes, resulting in a Labour pledge to freeze tariffs should the party win power.

But suppliers have warned that such price caps would have a damaging effect on the investment needed to maintain energy supply.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence