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 517.

    "The lights will stay on". A super comment, worthy to rank alongside "Peace in our time" and "The pound in your pocket will not be devalued".

  • rate this

    Comment number 516.

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

    Right thanks for the confirmation, I'll get some candles in anyway in case Mr Fallon can't bend the laws of physics to magic power out of nowhere.

  • rate this

    Comment number 515.


    You mean the wind farms that can't be built anywhere because of the NIMBY block?

  • rate this

    Comment number 514.

    1 ) Utilise the limited resources we have at our disposal right now, (coal, gas, etc)
    2) produce enough power to last untill New nucleaur power stations can be brought online with a life of 40 years +
    3) DO this whilst establishing the technology to use the natural resources we have...

    we need politicians to think of the next 50 years not just the next general election!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 513.

    Simple solution is just to build a few public owned power stations.
    They would be cheaper than private + the private ones will know we cannot & will not be held to ransom to pay their higher demanded profits, which is the SOLE reason why new powerstations have been delayed, due to excessive profit demands that energy providers want government to sign consumers/taxpayers to pay for

  • rate this

    Comment number 512.

    What's this got to do with Government? Wasn't the entire system (bar nuclear?) sold off on the cheap to free it from state shackles and introduce thrusting private enterprise? What a farce - many companies foreign-owned and content to sit and fleece us. What investment has been made over the past nearly 30-odd years apart from the dash-for-gas? Scandalous.

  • rate this

    Comment number 511.

    Just shows you how useless wind farms are.

  • rate this

    Comment number 510.

    Too much reliance on North Sea Gas has made previous governments lazy and as usual not thinking ahead. Discussion of energy requirements has been around for years and now we will be reduced to panic measures. Allowing our utilities to be taken over by foreign companies was the worst idea ever. What a crazy way to run a country!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 509.

    Just switch off every other street light when demand is high.
    Use our massive coal reserves - China and India use theirs

    Problem solved.

    Oh and all those stairwell lights that are on 24/7 in some social housing for 'elf and safety" reasons and because the tenants are not paying for it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 508.

    Quite embarassing that a once great country such as ours could face black outs more akin to developing countries. Long term, with population increasing fuelled by immigration and high birth rates, it's only going to get worse and worse. The last person out of Britain won't have to turn out the lights, there won't be any electricity to power them anyway.

  • rate this

    Comment number 507.

    This is essentially already done by the process of peak-lopping and triad avoidance measures. I guess they're just going to set the bench mark a bit lower. Not really news to be honest.

  • rate this

    Comment number 506.

    Energy bills have sky rocketed because of "whole sale market prices" or "infrastructure investement" yet we have warning that energy supply could fail. At best this this shows the complete incompetence of privatised industry which is often considerabley worse value for the customer than public services or at worst a tactic to squeeze more blood from the stone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 505.

    Everyone is kicking up about the energy cartels and I agree, they should never have been privatized. I'm not waiting for anything to change though. It's crazy to trust big business with such a fundamentally important resource. I'm taking back control of my own power generation. It may look prohibitively expensive now but it's nothing to what we'll be milked for in the future

  • rate this

    Comment number 504.

    This Government wants to invest in new infrastructure, take our power companies back out of foreign ownership and invest!

  • rate this

    Comment number 503.

    A great boost for the British High Street and battery manufacturers!

    Don't just 'wax lyrical', remember the Candle shops!

    Matches will find a new use - rather than keeping eyes open with our passion for 'everything 24/7'!

    SAVE power by turning things OFF at night, as we used to do!

    No more night trips to the Supermarket, online shopping and 24/7 TV.

    Country would save a fortune!

  • rate this

    Comment number 502.

    Lets stop faffing about and invest in hydrogen.

    If you mean fusion I agree, but it will be a long time before it's providing power to the grid. If you mean burn hydrogen that won't help. If you get the hydrogen from water it costs more energy to extract than you get burning it. If you get it from oil and you only burn the hydrogen you only get a fraction of the energy contained.

  • rate this

    Comment number 501.

    The apathy and stupidity on the part of the Government on this subject is staggering. This morning a Government spokesperson was quoted as saying "we'll bring power stations out of moth balls if needed" - well it takes months to do that, but demand peaks (like boiling the kettle during the advert break) happen in seconds, so that ain't going to work.
    The politicians should listen to the experts!

  • rate this

    Comment number 500.


    In the meantime, lets just turn off a few more lights. Particularly those left on in office blocks. An if we all were just a little more careful with our energy use, it would help.'

    True. And why don't you see the green lobby out picking up litter at weekends, advocating the reforesting of the Highlands or trying to stop mass immigration?

  • rate this

    Comment number 499.

    Ok so comment 442 was poking fun at a serious situation... seriously though, a small standy supply will allow just enough power to supply a gas combi with its power so you can still run heating and hot water. For many people, no electricty means no heating or hot water... and you just know when the power will fail, it won't be July...

  • rate this

    Comment number 498.

    Lets stop faffing about and invest in hydrogen. It will almost certainly eventually become the fuel of choice. Once it's a little easier and cheaper to separate.
    not sure about hydrogen as you describe it, where do you get the energy to free/obtain hydrogen to burn to release its stored potential energy?
    Its a catch 22 situation.


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