Blackout Britain ‘scare stories’ must stop, says ex-National Grid head

Britain facing blackouts are “scare stories” which need to stop. That’s according to Steve Holliday, former boss of National Grid, who believes the nation has enough electricity capacity to meet […]

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By Priyanka Shrestha

Britain facing blackouts are “scare stories” which need to stop.

That’s according to Steve Holliday, former boss of National Grid, who believes the nation has enough electricity capacity to meet demand even during peak times.

His comments come as the latest round of capacity auction for power generation starts today.

Under the scheme, power plant operators bid for subsidies to provide back-up power when needed between November and February.

The auctions were originally due to supply back-up electricity from 2018 but the government brought it a year forward.

Last year National Grid increased the gap between total power generating capacity and peak demand to 6.6% for this winter – up from from 5.5% for winter 2015/2016.

Mr Holliday told BBC News: “It’s time for the headline of Blackout Britain to end – it’s simply wrong. We’ve been talking about blackouts for 15 years every time it gets cold but it’s a scare story.

“The lights haven’t gone out yet and thanks to the measures the government is putting in place this week, they definitely won’t go out in future. The UK has one of the most stable supplies of electricity in Europe.”

The Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) agrees, adding “it’s time to put Blackout Britain scaremongering to bed once and for all”.

Director Richard Black said: “It’s refreshing and welcome that someone of Steve Holliday’s stature has said what he’s said and our research backs him up: there have been no power cuts resulting from a lack of generation capacity in well over a decade, yet in that time we’ve seen a regular stream of scaremongering from a range of sources, including politicians and think tanks opposed to decarbonisation, the Big Six energy companies and trade unions, among others.

“Britain has one of the most reliable electricity systems in the world and it’s remaining reliable as renewable generation increases. It used to be said that the grid would fall over when 5% of our electricity came from wind and solar power – we’re now at three times that level and the lights are staying stubbornly on, just as they are in Denmark where wind provides about 40% of electricity.”

Analysts have suggested coal-fired power plant developers could be paid more than £150 million as part of the auctions to keep the lights on.