Britain could face power cuts 'next winter'

Britain could be hit by power cuts as early as next winter as electricity supply in the country is “close to it limits”, experts warn. The UK’s power capacity margin […]

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By Priyanka Shrestha

Britain could be hit by power cuts as early as next winter as electricity supply in the country is “close to it limits”, experts warn.

The UK’s power capacity margin – which is the difference between the amount of energy that can be generated and the possible peak demand – is expected to be low in the winter of 2014/15, a report for the Council for Science and Technology found.

It claims power plants are closing due to EU rules on carbon emissions, with 7.3GW of capacity already closed by mid-2013 and 11.5GW of capacity expected to shut by the end of 2015.

The Royal Academy of Engineering which carried out the study released yesterday said: “Although the electricity supply is expected to be sufficient to cover predicted levels of demand, it is likely to stretch the system close to its limits, notably during the winter of 2014-15, increasing the chances of power outages if several adverse events (low wind, cold weather, unplanned plant outages) were to happen at the same time.”

It comes a week after the National Grid’s Winter Outlook report which revealed the electricity supply margin stands at just 5% – almost half last year’s level.

The engineers are calling on the Government to resolve the Electricity Market Reform (EMR) process “as quickly as possible” and the long-running uncertainties on the carbon price floor to return much-needed certainty to the market. They also believe it is crucial to attract new investment from 2016 to the end of the decade in order to maintain a secure electricity supply.

Dr John Roberts, who chaired the study working group said: “Major investment is needed in the UK’s electricity system to achieve a modern, sustainable and secure service that will be the foundation of economic growth. Government will set the market conditions but it is private industry that will invest the necessary money.

“Most of the energy companies operating in this country are international organisations that will invest in the UK only if it proves to be an attractive market,” he added.