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‘Back Britain’ call to use energy off-peak and prevent winter blackouts

06 Oct 2022 4 minute read
A ‘Back Britain’ call has been made as part of efforts to prevent blackouts this winter. Inset pictures: Pixabay.

Households will be paid to put on their washing machines or charge their electric cars away from peak hours as part of ‘Back Britain’ efforts to prevent blackouts this winter.

Shortages of gas, which generated 40% of UK electricity last year, could mean planned three-hour blackouts in some areas to protect supplies for heating homes and buildings, system operators warned.

The margins between peak demand and power supply are expected to be sufficient and similar to recent years in the National Grid Electricity System Operator’s (ESO) base case scenario for this winter.

But in the face of the “challenging” winter facing European energy supplies following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the grid operator is also planning for what would happen if there were no imports of electricity from Europe and insufficient gas supplies.

To tackle a loss of imports from France, Belgium and the Netherlands, there are two gigawatts of coal-fired power plants on stand-by to fire up if needed to meet demand.

People are being encouraged to sign up with their electricity supplier to a scheme which will give them money back on their bills to shift their use of power away from times of high demand to help prevent blackouts.

That could mean putting on the dishwasher or washing machine overnight or charging an EV at off-peak times.

In addition, larger businesses will be paid for reducing demand, for example by shifting their times of energy use or switching to batteries or generators in peak times.

The “demand flexibility service” will run from November to March, and it is expected to swing into action 12 times whatever happens to ensure people get rewarded for being part of the scheme – with additional use if needed to protect supplies.

It is hoped it will deliver 2GW of power savings to balance supply and demand.

‘Save money and back Britain’

The ESO’s director of corporate affairs, Jake Rigg, said: “The demand flexibility service is a first of its kind and a smart way for signed up consumers in homes and businesses to save money and back Britain.

“If you put your washing machine or other electrical appliances on at night instead of the peak in the early evening, you can get some money back when we all need it.

“The service is due to launch in November, so watch out for further details soon. This really is a window into the future where a flexible energy system will be cleaner and lower cost to alternatives.”

Without the scheme, there might be days when it was cold and still – creating high demand and low levels of wind power – when there would be a potential need to interrupt supply to some customers for limited periods, National Grid ESO’s winter outlook said.

The ESO also warned that if there is not enough gas to keep the country’s power stations going in January it could force distributors to cut off electricity to households and businesses for three-hour blocks during the day.

“In the unlikely event we were in this situation, it would mean that some customers could be without power for pre-defined periods during a day – generally this is assumed to be for three-hour blocks,” the ESO said.

It said the number of people left without electricity would depend on how many gas power stations would be forced to shut down because there is not enough gas.

But this was the worst-case scenario that the grid operator presented.

Keeping the lights on

Its base case assumes that when Britain needs more electricity, cables that link the country to its European neighbours will be enough to keep the lights on.

It does not assume that there is any “material reduction of consumer demand due to high energy prices”.

Responding to the winter outlook, a Government spokesperson said: “The UK has a secure and diverse energy system.

“We are confident in our plans to protect households and businesses in the full range of scenarios this winter, in light of Russia’s illegal war in Ukraine.

“To strengthen this position further, we have put plans in place to secure supply and National Grid, working alongside energy suppliers and Ofgem, will launch a voluntary service to reward users who reduce demand at peak times.”

The spokesperson said Britain is not dependent on Russian energy imports, and has access to North Sea gas reserves, imports from Norway, and via ports which can handle liquefied natural gas, as well as clean energy sources.


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Gareth
Gareth
2 months ago

Why would electricity supply be a problem here. We, as a country are a net exporter of electricity, generating 27.9 TWh consuming 14.7 TWh. (figures are from 2019). If there are to be power cuts, our Gov need to explain where our electricity is going and why. There should be no need of restrictions when we only use half of what we generate.

Last edited 2 months ago by Gareth
Gareth
Gareth
2 months ago
Reply to  Gareth

Oh how stupid of me not to realise, when there is money to be spent during good times, we are left out, but when times are hard and cuts need to be made, we must pay our share. That’s how the UK works.

The Original Mark
The Original Mark
2 months ago

Always said that getting rid of gas holders was a stupid move, its been proven time and again.

Windy
Windy
2 months ago

It was this government that did away with the gas storage system in the uk yet another wrong decision that they did not share with the population then and they certainly won’t share it now

Cat
Cat
2 months ago

Just a mad idea here but, instead of jailing people calling for the insulation of buildings, what if we just insulated buildings?

Cwm Rhondda
Cwm Rhondda
2 months ago

This is truly pitiful, in 2022 we are facing a shortage of electricity. Successive UK governments, busy trying to shrink the size of the state, have neglected the well-being of the people. It is time people in Wales realised that UK government (past and present) ideology is focused on a neo-liberal view of the world. This ideology contributed to the UK having one of the worse Covid19 death rates (per 100,000) in the economically developed world, an energy crisis, and spiralling violent crime rates (the Tories cut 20,000 police officers, slowly being replaced).

Peter Cuthbert
Peter Cuthbert
2 months ago
Reply to  Cwm Rhondda

It is payback time for 30 years of Market Fundamentalism started by Thatcher and continued to its ultimate nutty finale by Liz BlunderTruss. The ‘Market’ will provide all the capacity that the country will need. Of course that is true if there are big profits to be had otherwise it will be a case of working the exisiting hardware to its limits because making big new investment could mean less profit. So here we are with insufficient capacity in England and we all have to suffer. On the bright side, paying us to use less power sounds like a good… Read more »

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
2 months ago

Back Britain and arrest Truss and Kwarteng for plotting to bring down the UK

Owain Morgan
Owain Morgan
2 months ago

If successive UK Governments had green lit the Severn Tidal Barrage, the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoons and various Wave power projects we wouldn’t be in this mess 🙄 Clean green energy offers Energy security and cheap energy. It’s not rocket science! 🙄

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