With the World Cup kicking off this week, energy demand is at its greatest, and it’s worth reflecting on the fact that the UK’s energy security doesn’t happen by accident.
The planning is meticulous, because our modern lives revolve around the use of energy.
Since the 1970s we have grown used to uninterrupted supplies of power and we haven’t had a supply shortage for decades. The UK is rated among the most energy secure countries in the world and according to the US Chambers of Commerce, Britain is more energy secure than any other EU country – and more secure than the US, China, Japan, Australia, Canada, Russia.
But over the next decade the context for energy security is likely to deteriorate with global demand going up, and the UK’s North Sea reserves declining. At the same time historic under-investment in the UK’s electricity market means that, without intervention, the risk of disruption will grow.
With investment in renewables at record levels, and £45bn attracted into the electricity system since 2010, the long term picture is looking positive.
But offshore wind farms and nuclear reactors take a while to build. So National Grid has been working with Ofgem to put in place new balancing measures that will ensure the lights stay on in the short-term. These focus on increasing supply and reducing demand if and when needed during peak periods.
Supply side measures include putting in place reserves from power-stations that would otherwise be closed or mothballed.
On the demand side National Grid will extend existing demand measures to reward more large energy users who have the flexibility to reduce their use of National Grid power at peak times.
Participation is entirely voluntary - no company will ever be asked or required to take part. Companies that do will get a payment for participating as well as benefiting from a reduction in their energy costs as well as carbon emissions - with no impact on their productivity or the need for new investment. It could mean changing a shift pattern or switching to on-site generation rather than relying on the Grid.
With these and our other measures in place, both Ofgem and National Grid are confident that the risk of supply disruption will remain at very low. The high levels of reliability that we have enjoy over the last few decades will not make us complacent.
Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey said:
“Thanks to the Government’s actions, we’re preventing the predicted energy crunch this winter by turning round a legacy of underinvestment and neglect.
“We’ve seen record investment in Britain’s electricity sector since 2010, with £45 billion invested already and more coming on line in the next few years.
“But as a sensible additional precaution, National Grid is implementing plans to bring mothballed power plant back on line and extend the lives of existing older power plants.
“Coupled with more companies being rewarded if they volunteer to shift their main electricity demand away from the peak if needed, Britain will retain its top position as the most secure country in the European Union for energy and the 4th best in the world.”