Industry should help improve energy margins by focusing on efficiency in order to survive cold spells

Electricity margins still OK despite cold weather

The UK’s electricity generation margins are ample to allow industry to survive the current cold spell despite previous warnings that severe weather might force factories to close, National Grid said.

“Electricity margins are still sufficient. National Grid added two additional new schemes to boost capacity, so we don’t expect any problems,” said National Grid’s spokeswoman Isobel Rowley.

National Grid’s Winter Outlook Report published in October last year said that electricity margins for the winter of 2014/2015 had decreased compared with previous years.  

“The average cold spell (ACS) margin is expected to be 4.1 per cent,” the report stated. “This is due to planned generator closures, breakdowns and new plants not coming online as quickly to replace them.”

The report hinted a winter as cold as that of 2010 could see factories being paid to shut down at peak times to save energy.

To mitigate the risk, National Grid signed contracts with further generators to provide additional capacity for its Supplemental Balancing Reserve (SBR).

Rowley expressed confidence that the system is ready to face even a prolonged cold spell.

European Automation said the industry itself should help stabilise the situation by focusing on energy efficiency.

“Let's take motors, for instance. Electric motors consume vast amounts of electricity,” the company said in a blog post on its website. “When we say vast, we're referring to the fact that about two-thirds of UK industrial energy use and about one quarter of total UK consumption comes from running these electricity thirsty babies.”

The company said decreasing speeds at which these motors are running as well as focusing on more efficient design would not only cut down energy requirements but also reduce costs.

“Even a small reduction in the rotational speed can mean significant savings in the energy consumed by the motor. A variable speed drive (VSD) can reduce energy consumption of a motor by as much as 60 per cent,” the company said.

European Automation calculated a 90kW motor running eight hours a day, seven days a week, 50 weeks a year could see its consumption reduced by 49 per cent with variable-speed drive technology. This would amount to £12,000 savings a year on electricity for a single electric motor.

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