National Grid is to pay mothballed plants to be online this winter to prevent power cuts, it has said.
The decision has been made after a series of accidents this summer led to several power plants being put off-line. The Ironbridge and Ferrybridge power stations were damaged by fire and EDF was forced to temporarily close four nuclear reactors at Heysham 1 and Hartlepool pending investigations due to a defect found in one of them.
This means power generation capacity, which would otherwise have supplied millions of homes, may not be available this winter. In addition, it has been announced that the Barking power station was closing.
Although National Grid originally planned to call up on the mothballed or closed generators to bid for payments to be in reserve next winter (2015/16) to cope with the expected energy crunch, it has now revised its decision urging the operators to put the facilities on stand-by as a "sensible precaution" due to uncertainty over the power plants that would be available this winter.
Under the "supplemental balancing reserve" scheme, power generators will bid for payments to be available to provide power at peak times from November to February, with extra payments if they are used, and fines if they are not available when needed.
"This is a sensible precaution to take while the picture for this winter remains uncertain,” said Cordi O'Hara, National Grid's director of UK market operation.
"At this stage we don't know if these reserve services will be needed, but they could provide an additional safeguard."
National Grid also said it had received a positive response to its pilot scheme to pay energy users, such as factories, to power down during peak hours to reduce demand on the system.
National Grid expects that the next winter could see gap between total power capacity and peak demand shrinking to only 2 per cent.