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 817.


    There is no shortage of energy on planet earth. The oceans and winds harbour all the energy we require for a sustainable existance.

    The real problem is that the reptile species has recognised that energy is an essential element, and hence can be used to exploit ordinary people.

    Such a shame.

  • rate this

    Comment number 816.

    812. voice of reason - true story - part of a group starting a new business was getting divorced over him always harping on kids electric use. He and his wife agreed he would live in their in-law apartment until business was going - they would each pay 1/2 of bills. After the 1st electric bill he heard her yelling at the kids about electric use.

  • rate this

    Comment number 815.

    You can bet your last penny that Big Business do not pay what you and I do for their power.

    Perhaps if they did they might volunteer to become more efficient and use less?

  • rate this

    Comment number 814.

    I wonder how much energy would be saved if we just turned off all UK internet systems and servers once a week?

    (And everyone turned off their computers to match)

    One for a graduate somewhere to calculate how much modern communications cost us all in energy and money.

    Huge, I would think.

  • rate this

    Comment number 813.

    @812.voice of reason ,
    Government enforced rationing will only serve to stifle innovation in cheaper sources of energy as there'll be less of a potential market available via the grid. In fact a super cheap source of energy would be environmentally beneficial as it would permit things like vertical farms with all the artificial lighting, sea water desalination and synthesis of clean fuels.

  • rate this

    Comment number 812.

    Energy is wasted by people who do not have to pay the bill.

    Like my wife and my kids.

    I keep telling them off, but they leave everything switched on.

    And I cant do a thing about it except watch in horror as energy is wasted.

    This is common in millions of homes in the UK.

    The answer? Limit the total power a home can consume, no matter how much money you have.

    Then they will respect it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 811.

    801. PigWig -- in the days of transistor mainframes that ran hot - one company in the US used heat from the IT center as a main source of winter heat - they used a heat pump to extract the heat and send it through the ductwork in winter. Todays centers don't run that hot and are energy efficient - some companies are converting from PC's on each desk to smart terminals to end need for updates.

  • rate this

    Comment number 810.

    Our government hasn't got the balls to turn round and say to the power companies, if you have blackouts then you will be fined for denying a vital service to your customers, the fines will be equal to every day turnvover the power is out. They would never dare lose power. our government (and labour) are a bunch of wimps or are in their back pocket.

  • rate this

    Comment number 809.

    am i the only 1 that noticed he wants to pay BIG companies to save power? and by that he means turn the lights off. something they should be doing anyway.
    im now waiting for them to say our bills will go up (again) to pay for the lack of power we will soon be getting.
    sick of the uk, if i win the lotto next week im gone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 808.

    804.voice of reason
    How about every power company declaring how much they charge for electricity on a fixed rate then giving discounts for ebilling, direct debit, late night night usuage etc. And also who the electricity companies buy their power from, at what rate and what term. No retail company has to buy power from anyone else. British gas buys from Centrica. Same group.

  • rate this

    Comment number 807.

    The best way of paying businesses to reduce their energy usage is to put up the prices!

    We need to live and work closer together and use combined heat and power with renewables. However, for that to happen, we really need to tackle crime. Crime makes living in the city less pleasant. In other words, if we were kinder to each other we could be kinder to the planet.
    P.S. I am not an old hippie.

  • rate this

    Comment number 806.

    So are night shift workers supposed to work by candle light? If we were on summertime it wouldn't get dark so soon. I don't understand why we put the clocks forward in summer. When it would be better to put them back. Not very good for children to get to sleep when it is still light at 10pm.

  • rate this

    Comment number 805.

    The government has emphasised "the lights won't go out".
    so to recap the lights will go out and it'll be unemployed peoples fault

  • rate this

    Comment number 804.

    If we wanted to be serious about energy use and conservation, every house in the UK should be fitted with a fixed load limiter.

    The total amount of electricity consumed at each dwelling should be proportional to total occupancy and the load limiter should be used to ensure that no more power than allocated can be used.

    The start of fair usage policy for power.

  • rate this

    Comment number 803.

    How much more evident failures of government are required before the British people DO something other than vote these incompetent deadbeats in.

  • rate this

    Comment number 802.

    Try and look round London any night. Lights on everywhere. would love to see a government handle that, but of course then London would be dark and not so attractive to tourists/visitors/workers. What I would is for a government harness all the wind power from Westminster, would power this country for years!

  • rate this

    Comment number 801.

    Domestic power use, while significant is nothing compared to industry. The real killer is IT and these huge data centres consuming megawatts of power. Efficiency is improving but the reality is it cost lots of money to do that and short term profit will always come first.
    IT kit mostly turns power into heat that is then extracted with inefficient cooling. This is the area to target.

  • rate this

    Comment number 800.

    Scargill and Crow live lifes of luxury. So the strikes didn't do anything to their standard of living, but it did screw up thousands of lives. My granddad worked in the docks in London, and was a union rep, and said all the strikes would destroy jobs.Which it did.Why did we have massive inflation?Partly oil crisis and partly unions driving up wages. Union leaders are greedy bankers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 799.

    Big handouts for large companies again whilst you and me pay through the nose.

    Remind me, do companies exist to provide products and work for the people, or do the people exist to act as slaves for the companies?

  • rate this

    Comment number 798.

    This country is fast becoming a joke ! no the mps and government of this country are the joke our nation is forced by said gov to build power stations for the private sector to run and charge us again for ? same with hospitals we build, sell and then pay rent, WHY who runs the damn country, as well as the eu oh yes big business, and our useless politicians sit back and let them, it is outrageous


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