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 697.

    I shall add this to the tally of "things the coalition has failed to address which are now a major problem" stick which is currently 10 metres long already!

    Still - what am I complaining about - the short sighted view of the Gubbermint is merely a reflection of the short sighted views of the public who keep voting the clowns in!

  • rate this

    Comment number 696.

    How much electricity is wasted in buisnesses keeping lights on all for the sake of a bit advertising. It's not like we get enough of it shooved down our throats as it is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 695.

    We need opencast mines like Germany and get at our coal reserves so we are self sufficient. The environmental argument here in this cold country is for another decade...there's gradual evolutionary change that'll deal with the larger issues in the longer term better than any panic driven energy crunch. Try the crunch see if it helps CO2 to have people burning their furniture to keep warm?

  • rate this

    Comment number 694.

    One of the most important aspects is age. The UK like so many other early industrialized nations have extremely old power grids going back nearly 100 years. When Hurricane Sandy hit the NY area in the US the grid that was destroy was over 100 years old in parts because NYC was the first city to be powered by electricity. The older the grid the more complex it becomes. This makes it hard to update

  • rate this

    Comment number 693.

    I seen shops/business and Offices with Lights and Computers and there servers on all the Time and even when there closed they all should be shut down/turned off when closed for business and weekends.
    there is no reason for IT security updates that the computer system needs to stay on you get the updates as soon as you from your system back on and log in again your computers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 692.

    It's a crying shame Thorium Molten Salt Reactors weren't made the mainstream type of nuclear reactor despite being successfully tested back in the 60's.
    As for tidal, there's a good reason not to rely on that, as it's one of the if not THE most expensive form of power there is.
    Traditional hydro is good though but very geography specific.

  • rate this

    Comment number 691.

    Utter lunacy, we ask business to cut back on power (saving themselves energy costs) and pay them to do so because the Energy industry is mired in indecision and holding out for greater profits (ref Nuclear builds).
    Is this what privatisation has brought us to, we were promised competition would do wonders for us now we need businesses to cut back to keep our lights on.
    Re-nationalize any failures.

  • rate this

    Comment number 690.

    Lighting apart, everywhere (shops, businesses, schools) could easily survive with a 1 degree drop in room temperature - might even be beneficial to health and concentration. However first place to start - airports - always about 5 degrees too hot.

  • rate this

    Comment number 689.

    Hmm, I think I trust this government minister about as much as that Maud Francis bloke (....remember him, Mr Jerry Can ?).

    And I trust him about as much as John Selwyn Gummer the BSE burger muncher.

    Clueless politicians.

  • rate this

    Comment number 688.

    684. andyg. Funny how the Government completely ignore Thorium as well as Tidal etc. Real solutions to out power needs. We need to stop subsidising profitable power companies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 687.

    Just now
    @Total Mass Retain

    Pretty please?

    Apologies should be delivered with expediency. I cannot answer your question of absolute legitimacy; the answer escapes my intellect with some completion and additionally I am currently engaged on another enterprise which has the properties of absolute time consumption; to whit, burbling at myself.

  • rate this

    Comment number 686.

    To hell with the NIMBY's build more wave and windfarms.

  • rate this

    Comment number 685.

    36. Justin33

    We need to take our heads out of the sand with energy.

    Be very careful, if you take your head out of the sand too energetically your neck will hurt. Ask any ostrich, do it nice and slowly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 684.

    Fukushima scared people into thinking that all nuclear was dangerous.
    Fact is the Thorium(LFTR) is completely different in its mode of operation than the current pressurised water designs in use, and would be incapable of exploding or melting down. Germans would be far better of adopting Thorium than instead of coal.
    Incidentally coal also represents a greater radiological problem than nuclear.

  • rate this

    Comment number 683.

    the energy industry is yet another example of how privatisation leads to higher costs for us and massive profits for corporate entities, it's disgusting.

  • rate this

    Comment number 682.

    Don't panic Michael Fallon has his fingers in a very lucrative outside bussiness "Tullett Prebon", a leading brokerage firm in the City the chairman is often on newsnight telling us how welfare is evil and there should be a tax free economy and how that would fix everything ,so when the lights go out he will more than likely be in some lovely warm country enjoying his gold plated MPs pension

  • rate this

    Comment number 681.

    I'm sick of all this talk of future plans for power generation. Two areas that talk continuously about new developments and never any practical implementation because being blocked from decent funding... batteries and tidal power. Both when properly funded would solve many of our problems, but surprise surprise, they never get the funding they need.

  • rate this

    Comment number 680.

    @Total Mass Retain

    Pretty please?

  • rate this

    Comment number 679.

    671.Total Mass Retain

    'As usual the well worn debunked contrarian arguments get repeated here. You point out an authoritative rebuttal and some agree that they are mistaken.'

    This reads as though you are ranting to yourself. Highly disturbing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 678.

    It has been theorised that if they fed Ed Balls nothing but omelettes then he could easily produce enough methane to run 6 power stations.


Page 7 of 41


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