National Grid ‘cautiously optimistic’ the UK will avoid blackouts this winter

National Grid’s electricity system operator (ESO) has signalled “cautious optimism” that the risk of electricity blackouts will be lower this winter.

The operator said it anticipated a margin of around 4.4 GW, or 7.4 per cent excess generation at peak times, which is slightly higher than last year’s 3.7GW.

It said a combination of factors were responsible for the higher margins for this winter, including more generation being available, as well as increased levels of battery storage.

Last winter, the energy markets across Europe were able to cope with consumer demand, despite record-high prices of gas and oil driven by the Ukraine war.

Coordination and cooperation across European electricity systems helped to meet the demand – if one country was producing excess energy, interconnectors would be used to transport this to other areas of the continent where demand outstripped supply.

This winter, both European gas storage and French nuclear power have greater availability than last year, the ESO said, which will help to support electricity and gas flows across Europe into Great Britain.

The operator also plans to bring back the Demand Flexibility Service this winter, subject to regulatory approval.

It was first introduced last winter to help the UK cope with tight energy supplies and ultimately saved over 3,300MWh of electricity. The service pays businesses and the public for reducing or moving their electricity use outside of peak hours in a bid to stabilise the grid. A typical household could save approximately £100 through the limited scheme, while industrial and commercial businesses with larger energy usage could save multiples of this.

Given the continued uncertainty presented by the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, the ESO said it could not “completely discount” the risk of events occurring that could destabilise energy supplies.

Head of national control Craig Dyke said: “Today’s report illustrates the different position we find ourselves in compared to twelve months ago. The energy markets across Europe have responded, bolstering gas and electricity storage and supplies ahead of this winter.

“While this is reflected in slightly higher operational margins for this winter, we and the rest of the energy industry will as always continue to prepare for a range of potential eventualities, so that we are fully prepared for any changes in circumstances this winter.

“To support our preparations, we have chosen to reintroduce the Demand Flexibility Service for this winter, following the impressive response from consumers and businesses to act as virtual power plants. Following regulatory approval, we will be publishing more details on how households and businesses can get involved and participate in the service this year.”

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