Capacity Brown-outs? No more likely than last year says Ofgem

The gap between how much extra electricity we generate and what we use is roughly the same as last year’s, Ofgem said yesterday, pointing to this as evidence there’s no […]

Register now!

By Vicky Ellis

The gap between how much extra electricity we generate and what we use is roughly the same as last year’s, Ofgem said yesterday, pointing to this as evidence there’s no need to panic.

Publishing its latest assessment of power capacity margins for the coming winters, the regulator said there is a “reduced” likelihood of blackouts.

Last year Ofgem calculated the margin range for winter 2014/15 was 3% to 7%. Its latest report shows this range has bumped up to between 5% and 10%.

As industrial sites such as factories would be asked to switch off equipment first, a situation known as a brownout, this may be some reassurance to major energy users.

However the analysis shows the margins could still be as low as 2% in 2015/16, with a slight boost given by National Grid measures with a top winter margin of 8%. (Last year Ofgem said this could have been 5%).

The regulator said National Grid’s new tools to avoid power cuts have helped and these are the balancing mechanisms: a) tendering for new contracts with power stations to provide extra reserve power when needed and b) asking large businesses to cut their power consumption during peak demand times in return for a payment.

Dermot Nolan, Ofgem Chief Executive said: “Britain has a reliable electricity system and although the outlook for capacity margins is broadly similar compared with last year’s report, the fact National Grid can use the new tools to balance the grid has reduced the risk of disconnections.”