UK less likely to lose power this winter than last, says grid operator

By Staff

National Grid’s Electricity System Operator said it expects power plants, wind farms and other generation methods to be able to provide more than enough power to meet demand

Britain is less likely to experience power shortages this winter compared to last year, according to the company that operates the grid.

The National Grid’s Electricity System Operator (ESO) announced on Thursday that it anticipates power plants, wind farms and other sources of generation will be able to supply more than enough electricity to meet demand. In its early outlook for the upcoming winter, the ESO revealed that the grid would have an average margin the difference between the supply of electricity and the demand for it of 5.6 gigawatts (GW) this coming winter, a rise from 4.4 GW the previous year.

This increase results in a system margin of 9.4%, up from 7.4% last year, meaning the period when demand might exceed supply is estimated at just 0.1 hours. The increased margins are partly due to improved capacity, facilitated by a new 765km high-voltage cable that links the UK’s electricity network with Denmark.

Known as the Viking Link, this interconnector began transporting wind power between the two countries in December. Kayte O’Neill, the ESO’s chief operating officer, assured that the operator will maintain “sufficient margins” throughout the winter.

She cited factors such as increased interconnector capacity, new gas generation, growth in battery storage capacity and increased generation connected to the distribution networks as contributing to higher margins than last winter.

She said: “Global energy markets are showing signs of stability, but uncertainties remain and, therefore, as a prudent system operator we remain vigilant, continuing to monitor potential risks and working closely with our partners to establish any actions necessary to build resilience.”

“We are continuing to meet the challenge of reliably operating a changing electricity system as new technologies, and diverse forms of capacity, contribute to security of supply.”

Europe’s energy structure has had to adapt in recent years due to potential gas shortages following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The ESO mentioned that there are “uncertainties still remain” in relation to market resilience against any possible further shocks to supply.

This forecast aims to provide organisations across Great Britain’s energy sector with sufficient time to prepare for the upcoming winter. The statement reads that there is expected to be enough capacity to cover demand, however, the ESO also predicts there may be “some days where we need to use tools in our standard operational toolkit, including use of system notices”.

System notices are common practice. They occur when the operator can’t balance supply and demand using its regular methods and sends a formal signal to the electricity market informing companies of its requirements.

Jess Ralston, head of energy at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, commented: “Some more wiggle room in electricity supply this winter proves that the UK’s net zero transition is delivering reliable power, increasingly from renewable sources like offshore wind.”

“We’re expecting to see the last bit of coal generation ahead of the winter as the last plant shuts. The fly in the ointment would be more volatility in wholesale gas prices. Many analyses, including from the OBR (Office for Budget Responsibility), have pointed to the risk of gas dependence, including the burden it could add to national debt.”

“Anyone who’s paid an energy bill in the past couple of years also knows what that looks like. With the price of North Sea gas set by international markets and reserves already running out, more renewables, insulating homes and switching to heat pumps will do much more to ensure the energy we use increasingly comes from within our borders.”

In another development, National Gas, the company responsible for operating the gas system, announced it is undertaking its most extensive summer of maintenance and upgrades in recent years. The operator revealed that investment has increased by one-third compared to last year over the summer, aiming to ensure Britain’s vast 7,600km network is prepared for the upcoming winter.

Ian Radley, System Operations Director at National Gas, said: “This investment will ensure our gas network remains match-fit to transport the energy Britain needs for the coming winter and beyond. Continuing to decarbonise GB’s energy system in a way that is both secure and affordable will require industry and government to continue to work closely together, and we are proud to continue to play a critical role in this national endeavour.”

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