Had the 2012/2013 been colder, UK might have experienced severe power shortage

UK on the brink of running out of power last winter

The UK nearly ran out of power last winter with spare capacity available to only cover 4 per cent of the nation’s demand, a Labour peer has said.

According to Lord Stoddart of Swindon, had the 2012/2013 winter been only slightly colder, the UK might have experienced critical power shortage.

"When I worked in the electricity supply industry, we believed that we couldn't run the system with less than 18 per cent spare capacity,” he said yesterday, pointing to the state of UK’s reserves that only had 1,800MW at hand to prevent the black-out.

During a discussion in the House of Lords, the Energy and Climate Change Minister Baroness Verma reassured the peers the government has the situation under control.  

According to Conservative peer Lord Cormack, Britain should rather prioritise keeping the lights on than meeting European targets. "There are installations that are mothballed, which ought perhaps to be taken out of mothball," he said.

"You are, of course right, there are a number of plants that are mothballed, but as I said those plants can come on board if we require them,” Lady Verma replied. "At this moment in time, we don't require them."

Earlier this month, National Grid called on companies to consider curbing their electricity needs next winter between 4pm and 8pm during the workdays to prevent the black-out.

The government is also considering several measures to boost the UK’s energy supply, including clarity on renewables subsidies, support for new gas power plants and incentives to drive shale gas exploration.

Ministers also brought forward a £10bn guarantee for Hinkley Point C, the nuclear power station that EDF Energy is planning to build in Somerset; it is the largest offer under the Treasury’s £40bn infrastructure guarantee scheme.

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