The threat of energy blackouts has been far from the view of the general public until very recently. With mass media reports from early 2013 indicating that energy shortages could begin to affect the UK from 2015, is there any truth behind the news overload?
According to Ofgem, the global financial crisis, tougher carbon emissions targets, our increased dependency on imported fuel and the closure of ageing UK power stations are all increasing the risk of power shortages. With recent assessments indicating that if Britain’s energy demand persists at its current level, the risk of blackouts by 2015 is predicted to be one-in-four. Ofgem and Government Ministers believe that failure to invest in wind farms and other forms of power, to replace the closed fossil fuel facilities has increased the risk to the UK significantly; particularly as new power stations will not be in action until 2015.
To address this electricity shortage, Ofgem suggests that electricity generators should be paid to keep old plants running, to enable the UK access to power; should additional resource be required. The National Grid, however, is taking a different approach; with the suggestion of introducing monetary incentives by winter 2014 to encourage companies to consider reducing their electricity uses during peak winter times.
This method is not proposed to be compulsory for UK businesses, but will provide an option for firms to reduce their demand and ultimately their costs; whilst being paid a supplement. Government Energy Minister, Michael Fallon, is ‘fully behind’ the National Grid consultation which could involve large shops and factories being asked to lower their usage between 4pm-8pm on weekdays; from November to February. The Government insist that these plans have been in place as a contingency for over 20 years, but have never been put into action as they were deemed un-necessary to date.
As Energy Secretary, Ed Davey outlines ‘Without timely action there would be risks to security of supply’ which is why the contingency plans of keeping old power stations in reserve and paying large energy consumers to reduce costs help to banish consumer worries; particularly those related to reduced energy production and the potential detrimental effects which this could have on businesses and lives throughout the UK.
According to Ofgem and Government reports, controlling, monitoring and incentivising energy provide the best possible solutions to avoid power blackouts, shortages and power spikes, avoiding damage to consumers and the economy.