UK braced for electricity supply shortages over next few days

Kalila Sangster
·2 mins read
Electrical poles of high voltage in blue sky
National Grid: 'We’re forecasting tight margins on the electricity system over the next few days.' Photo: Getty

National Grid (NG.L) has warned it is working to prevent a blackout as the UK’s electricity supply will be limited over the next few days due to several unplanned power plant outages and unusually low wind speeds this week.

The electricity system operator said on Twitter: “We’re forecasting tight margins on the #electricity system over the next few days owing to a number of factors including weather, import and export levels and availability of generators over periods of the day with higher demand.”

The company said it will take action to “make sure there is enough generation” this week to ensure the country does not suffer from a major blackout.

“We’re exploring measures and actions to make sure there is enough generation available to increase our buffer of capacity,” National Grid said.

It also recorded an electricity supply shortage last month, with the company issuing an official warning to the electricity market that its “buffer” of power reserves had fallen below 500MW.

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The company warned that it may need to call on more power plants to help prevent a blackout in mid-September. The notice was later withdrawn.

The latest electricity supply shortage is not expected to be as severe, and National Grid does not expect to issue an official warning in the next 24 hours, a spokeswoman told the Guardian.

National Grid said “margins are adequate for tomorrow and we're monitoring how the situation develops.” The company said it would continue to provide further updates.

Electricity shortages are rare for National Grid. The more pressing concern for the company is an oversupply of electricity which has threatened to overwhelm the grid during times of low electricity demand.

National Grid has spent almost £1bn ($1.3bn) on preventative measures in the first half of 2020 by paying generators to produce less electricity during the coronavirus lockdown in order to avoid blackouts.

Electricity demand has been impacted by COVID-19, with National Grid seeing around a 10% drop in demand during lockdown.

Last year the UK experienced its biggest blackout in more than a decade after a lightening strike caused two power generators to go offline in August, leaving over 1 million customers without power and causing chaos on roads and trains.

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