UK to face blackouts next winter?

There could be blackouts or brownouts in the UK in the next year. That’s the conclusion of a panel debate on winter blackouts between Lord Rupert Redesdale, CEO of the Energy Managers […]

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By Jacqueline Echevarria

There could be blackouts or brownouts in the UK in the next year.

That’s the conclusion of a panel debate on winter blackouts between Lord Rupert Redesdale, CEO of the Energy Managers Association and Jon Ferris, Strategy Director at Utilitywise.

They agreed in the long term, the energy system in the country may not have sufficient capacity to meet peak demand.

Lord Redesdale believes there’s around 80% chance of blackouts or brownouts next winter.

He said: “It might not happen this year but that’s not the issue, the issue is that we don’t have solutions for the next five to 10 years.”

Mr Ferris added although National Grid was prepared to meet the energy demand this winter, it might not be the same next winter.

He went on: “The key thing for me is if we do get a high pressure system developing in December that brings cold across Europe which could mean the French heating demand goes up so they’re not able to export power because they’re dependent on power for their heating, low wind in Germany so Germany can’t export because demand goes up. If that’s the case then we would be in real trouble.”

Lord Redesdale believes the UK energy system doesn’t have the generating capacity that it needs to avoid blackouts and predicts a 35% loss of power by 2020.

His comment comes as the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) said the UK could face a power supply gap of up to 55% by 2025.

Lord Redesdale added the lack of construction of power plants is an issue as the ones which are online are “very old”.

“There are no incentives to build plants in the scale we need”, he said. He also believes power prices will increase in the coming years.

Both speakers agreed the Electricity Market Reform (EMR) and Capacity Market have been a failure.

Mr Ferris said: “I think history is not going to be kind on the whole package of EMR. It gives a missed opportunity to really change the way the electricity system works for 21st century and it does require significant change.”

Lord Redesdale added: “Everybody knew it was going to be a car crash because the politicians don’t understand energy.”

They both agreed the government should put its eyes on technologies such as energy storage and demand side response to fight possible blackout issues.