Britain’s winter blackout risk rises after cable fire | Energy industry


The risk of winter blackouts has increased after a fire affecting a key submarine cable further eroded Britain’s emergency power supply cushion, already diminished by the shutdown of gas plants and nuclear reactors.

National Grid’s power grid operator ESO said the “decommissioned margin” – the amount of excess capacity that could be relied on if needed – should be 6.6% or 3.9 gigawatts (GW).

This would be higher than the margins observed in 2015-2016 and the following year. But ESO said a worst-case scenario, such as multiple power plant outages, low wind speeds and a very cold winter, could drop the margin to just 4.2%, or 2.5 GW. .

That would be well below the 5.1% forecast in 2015, ahead of a notoriously tough winter when National Grid was forced to ask businesses to reduce their electricity use to keep the lights on.

With margins likely to be tighter than the Grid would like, it plans to issue a similar number of electricity market notices to last year, when it sent six of the official calls to suppliers of electricity. energy to increase the amount of electricity they make available.

ESO took the unusual step this year to release an early version of its Winter Outlook, its annual assessment of Britain’s electrical safety net.

He said at the time that the margin could drop to 5.3%, due to the withdrawals of the Dungeness B and Hunterston B nuclear plants and the closures of the Baglan Bay, Severn Power and Sutton Bridge gas plants.

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But its most pessimistic scenario has worsened since September, when a large fire hit the high-voltage electric cables of IFA, which supplies electricity to France. Half of the 2GW cable is expected to be unavailable until March.

Despite the downgrade, National Grid said there was no risk of a blackout due to the narrower margin.

ESO Executive Director Fintan Slye said: “The Winter Outlook confirms that we expect to have sufficient capacity and tools to meet demand this winter. The margins are well within the reliability standard so we are confident that there will be enough capacity available to keep the UK lights on. “

However, speaking at an event hosted by the Financial Times on Wednesday, National Grid chief executive John Pettigrew said the gap between supply and demand could be smaller than in recent years.

Tighter margins can lead to higher bills as the grid faces the additional cost of paying energy providers more for additional supplies to top up the back-up margin.

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