Warning of future UK power shortages

Pylons, Edinburgh Power supplies will be stretched over the next decade according to a new report.

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There is a growing risk of power shortages over the next few years, according to a report commissioned for the prime minister.

The Royal Academy of Engineering said the closure of older power plants and the slow progress in building news ones was likely to stretch the system "close to its limits".

Supply is particularly expected to come under strain in the winter of 2014-15.

Last week the National Grid warned of a higher risk of blackouts this winter.

Cold winters warning

The new study was commissioned by the prime minister's Council for Science and Technology to find out how stretched power supplies are likely to be during this decade.

Start Quote

The lights are not going to go out”

End Quote Michael Fallon Business minister

"Although the electricity supply is expected to be sufficient to cover predicted levels of demand, it is likely to stretch the system close to its limits, notably during the winter of 2014-15," the report said.

Dr John Roberts, one of its authors, added: "We've looked back at real events that happened in the past which caused shocks to our system - like very cold winters, like major power stations shutting down.

"If those things happen again in the future and we don't take measures to correct what's going on, then there's a serious risk that we will have power shortages."

To avoid what its authors called "a blackout scenario by 2020", the report called on ministers to:

  • introduce interim measures to maintain capacity before energy market reforms are introduced next year
  • resolve the reform process as soon as possible
  • work with the industry to "foster a constructive dialogue" with the public on energy policy

Reacting to the report, Business Minister Michael Fallon said: "The lights are not going to go out. There will be a tightness in supply if nothing is done but stuff is being done.

"We've opened six new gas plants already. Another is being built. You're going to hear very soon about our investment in new nuclear power stations."

Two years ago the UK had a buffer between energy supply and demand of 16%, but this winter that will fall to 5% and it could hit 2% by 2015, according to the National Grid and the energy regulator, Ofgem.

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