Energy minister 'fully behind' National Grid


Michael Fallon: "I can assure you, the lights are not going to go out"

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The government says energy minister Michael Fallon is "fully behind" a National Grid consultation that could see big businesses paid to cut their energy usage in times of shortage.

Last night Mr Fallon appeared to dismiss the proposal in an interview on the BBC's Newsnight programme.

It followed a warning from energy regulator Ofgem that the risk of power cuts has increased in the UK.

Despite that the government has emphasised "the lights won't go out".

Electricity network owner National Grid has suggested large consumers, such as big shops and factories, could be asked to lower use between 16:00 and 20:00 on weekdays in the winter.

Ofgem also suggested keeping some mothballed power plants in reserve in case of emergencies.

"This does not mean that disruption is imminent or likely, but Ofgem, [the Department of Energy and Climate Change] and ourselves believe it appropriate to consider what measures could be taken in case margins deteriorate further," National Grid said.

In a statement, DECC said Mr Fallon "is fully behind Ofgem and National Grid's consultations which are about whether they should take the prudent step of extending their existing services in the context of possible tightening in the supply margin in the middle of the decade".


Can it be right to ask businesses to close to keep the lights on for the rest of us? That's what is being proposed by National Grid.

There is no compulsion. No rationing. Instead medium and large firms will be paid to reduce their electricity demand.

The National Grid says this would be a last resort to be used on winter evenings when temperatures plunge and demand soars.

It is also proposing to pay some electricity generators to keep mothballed plants ready to provide power. The Grid accepts that these new provisions sit outside its "usual system operator role" and are likely to modestly increase household bills.

But some industrial users may reflect that if the only way to keep the lights on is to shut down factories and businesses then government energy policy can't be working.

'Lights stay on'

"One option, if the need arose, would be for companies to voluntarily enter into agreements to fire up currently mothballed power stations or for large users to reduce their demand, in return for which they would receive payment," it said.

"This is an extension of what already happens in the power market. There is no compulsion and it is not rationing.

"We are confident that, with Ofgem and Grid having all the tools at their disposal, the lights will stay on."

In an interview on Newsnight, Mr Fallon appeared to dismiss the idea of paying big users to cut back.

When asked if there was any truth to reports that big factories and businesses would be asked to cut their energy use in 2015, Mr Fallon replied: "No".

"The latest [Ofgem] assessment has shown that the position is slightly worse than the previous assessment last year.

"The regulator Ofgem has got to make sure, with all the tools at its disposal - bringing some mothball plant back in action and back on line - that the lights stay on and they will."

In an assessment released on Thursday, Ofgem said spare electricity production capacity in the UK could fall to 2% by 2015, increasing the risk of blackouts.

The watchdog said more investment in power generation was needed to protect consumers.

It said: "Ofgem's analysis indicates a faster than anticipated tightening of electricity margins toward the middle of this decade."

The global financial crisis, tough emissions targets, the UK's increasing dependency on gas imports and the closure of ageing power stations were all contributing to the heightened risk of shortages, Ofgem said.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 257.

    Solar panels don't always work!

    I'm all for solar energy, providing it works but storing it in batteries isn't the answer to the storage problems. Batteries can be very toxic, and can you imagine the recycling problems we'd have with them. Alas the sun doesn't shine at night when we need most electricity!

  • rate this

    Comment number 256.

    Political self interest and cronyism UK at it's worst.

    It pains me to say it, but just look at Germany as an example of how to run a modern first world country. Sadly that goes for their football teams too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 255.

    I agree with comments. re. lack of investment & too much streamlining.


    It does wake you up (hopefully) that household consumption has increased stupidly. Huge TV's needing a Sky/Virgin/Freeview box, all left on standby. Lights on in every room, full kettles boiled for one cup of tea, microwave meals the norm, all kids having a tv, laptop, Xbox...Don't just blame the providers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 254.

    Rather than asking them to 'lower their energy use' during business or manufacturing hours, why not make them switch the lights off at night when there's no-one in the building? I walk through the city centre at night and I see large (so-called 'responsible') shops fully illuminated, empty, churches with T.V's on inside, but no-one home at 2 in the morning. No security argument on a lit street.

  • rate this

    Comment number 253.

    More of Thatcher's legacy. There is enough coal under our land to last two hundred years,

    Says who? Oh well the good old days eh? Thousands of minors with ill health and of course all those collieries were so attractive. I tell you what, why not go back to the horse and cart? That will create loads of jobs for blacksmiths!

  • rate this

    Comment number 252.

    180. "Support for green technologies is dwarfed by profits made by the oil and gas industry which is pulling the strings"

    One is making profits in a competitive industry, the other is totally reliant on taxpayer subsidy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 251.


    More of Thatcher's legacy. There is enough coal under our land to last two hundred years, but the evil one flooded the pits to deliberately make them so dangerous they could never be re-opened.'

    Have you ever heard such nonsense in your entire life?

  • rate this

    Comment number 250.


    So you haven't actually bothered reading the report then?

    You don't actually have any relevant statistic to provide a counter argument....

    ....just obfuscation with misleading, mostly irrelevant details.....

    ...the wind is ALWAYS blowing sufficiently somewhere in the UK......

  • rate this

    Comment number 249.

    If we have power cuts, then the past and present politicians should be held to account and prosecuted for failing this country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 248.

    On my way to Beverley two weeks ago I passed a huge wind farm with
    many of the larger types - Only one of these was asctually working. There was a brisk wind that day (?). They're also stating 'We need to build more houses' that means more strain on the utilities. If this is the case more needs to done. I'm a big believer in tide flows. Assuming the moon doesn't blow up - It's a constant supply

  • rate this

    Comment number 247.

    231 mayna
    but considering that WE already pay for the cable via government taking the money OFF US to give to these company`s to invest in THEIR SYSTEM. why do we have to buy something then get charged to make them extortionate PROFIT

  • rate this

    Comment number 246.

    WE need nuclear and reopen the coal mines. Fracking seems a good idea and sack the green lobby.

  • rate this

    Comment number 245.

    How much worse will this become when all the greens have electric cars which you simply have to plug in to the wall and "poof", recharged with non-polluting electricity, generated by?

  • rate this

    Comment number 244.

    @235 decades of wasted money thrown at nuclear without much delivering much? Nuclear served has us fine for years - Labour folly to abandon it for no real plan.

    @234 Solar and Batteries?

  • rate this

    Comment number 243.

    Propaganda all is phony - Bob Dylan

    This purely is a Tory bit of Propaganda to hopefully that we easily accepted high bills in future
    And why has it gone all quiet on the In or Out of Europe Vote???
    Bring it on !

  • rate this

    Comment number 242.

    If you look at the statement NG made it wasn't about blackouts and large energy user being switched off if the system couldn't handle the peak demand, it was about offering a service whereby NG would pay a customer to reduce their usage at peak times by moving their usage pattern i.e. if for example if an iron works had a back shift that operated at peak time, move it to the night shift.

  • rate this

    Comment number 241.

    I don't necessarily want the utilities renationalised. I DO want them better regulated and forced to work for their customers instead of their share-holders. Maybe it's naive to believe that's possible but surely that's worth a go before renationalisation, which seems a bit extreme.

    Pretty obvious though that something needs to change, and fast. We're being pushed to the brink for profit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 240.

    Politicians and civil servants living in cloud cuckoo land again. When Miliband was a minister he authorised the closing of power stations without building replacements and we still don't have them. Why don't we set up an infrastructure fund (like national savings) build the (nuclear) power stations and sell the energy generated to the power suppliers at a rate enough to cover cost of build.

  • rate this

    Comment number 239.

    Temporary wind energy does'nt not damage anything, it is subsidised like every power source and according to ofgem is more effecient than thought with the added bonus of future equality of price.Nuclear sure but lets sort out the waste and pylon problems and fracking well we should have absolutely no concerns about that should we? Some comming you way now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 238.

    Somebody please tell me that the private power providers who were awarded the national supply contracts had clauses in them which punish them fianancially for failure to maintain supply.
    The deals done must have had guarantees attached to this end or the whole privatisation model has been a con?


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