electricity grid power network towers pylons

UK businesses hit by power cuts as electricity demand expected to rise

A third of UK businesses have suffered a power cut in the last year, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has said, calling into question the reliability of the nation's power networks.

The National Grid has been undergoing significant changes in recent years with record levels of renewables coming online alongside declining use of coal power plants.

While renewables are seen as essential for the UK to meet its carbon reduction obligations, their intermittence does create greater instability on the Grid, prompting concerns that even elongated power cuts could become more commonplace without proper backup systems.

The BCC surveyed more than 1,000 businesses, a quarter of which said they expect dependence on electricity to increase in the years ahead, thereby placing even greater strain on power networks that are struggling to cope.

The body called for better support to help firms make the transition to clean energy and improved energy efficiency.

In contrast to the power cuts, fewer than one in 10 of those questioned said they had suffered water shortages and only 2 per cent experienced gas outages.

The research also showed that business is already taking steps to reduce waste and emissions, with the most-adopted measures over the last twelve months being increased recycling (61 per cent), installing LED lighting (54 per cent) and reducing paper consumption (49 per cent).

BCC director-general Dr Adam Marshall said: “Our message to policy-makers couldn’t be clearer - work with us in business to fix Britain’s energy infrastructure and ensure it’s fit for the future.

“Access to affordable and reliable energy is critical for businesses. It’s unacceptable that many companies are facing power cuts and interruption to supply, which can damage machinery and leave employees unable to do their jobs.

“Reliance on electricity is set to increase across the economy as we move away from fossil fuel use. Electricity providers, industry, regulators and government must work together to accelerate improvements in generation and supply, with a firm eye on our shared goal of net-zero carbon emissions.”

Will Gardiner, chief executive of the Drax Group, which helped with the research, added: “Electricity demand is expected to rise as the economy digitises and sectors such as heating and transportation decarbonise.

“With weather-dependent wind and solar set to generate more power than ever, we’re going to need more fast-acting and flexible electricity generation to maintain a reliable grid.

“Businesses across Britain can play their part too by installing on-site batteries, switching their fleets to electric vehicles, conducting energy audits, buying 100% renewable power and taking up smart meters, enabling a zero-carbon, lower-cost energy future.”

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