The chance of an electricity blackout has risen to its highest in a decade and the National Grid has admitted that it is more likely to draw power from additional sources to try to keep the country’s electricity flowing.
The operator said it had enlisted power stations to provide extra capacity and has asked companies across the UK to be ready to cut their usage in case of a peak in demand.
The acquisition of additional capacity means that the situation should be manageable, according to National Grid. These extra measures will come at a cost of 50p extra per year for customers.
The forecast capacity margin for this year, in simple terms the difference between available supply and expected peak demand, is 1.2% without any additional power plants. The number is its lowest since 2005. The added power brings the number up to 5.1% however.
In its winter report, National Grid said: “We expect electricity margins to be tight but manageable for this winter. We have procured our contingency balancing services which we may need to use in order to help us balance the system.”
National Grid has come under fire for the new low capacity margin, which was at a safe level of 16.8% as recently as 2011, attributed to their decision to axe a number of power stations and reduce the output of others.
Members of the solar industry have also blamed the state of Britain’s electricity grid, calling it antiquated to the point where new connections to the system cannot be made. In fact, the grid has been entirely closed to new large renewable projects in Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and Dorset for up to six years.
The solar sector has also criticised the government for failing to support the industry after a series of solar panel providers went into liquidation. As part of their austerity campaign, the government has placed a cap on the total amount of money that can be spent on renewable energy businesses per year.
Peak demand for the country’s electricity supply is expected to be weekdays between November and February, reaching its highest point in mid-December. Supply will also be at its lowest in the weeks beginning 26 October and 11 January.