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National Grid Prepare for Winter 2015 Blackouts

Winternational grid logo 2014/15 isn’t even upon us and already National Grid is making plans for 2015/16. Some will say this pre-preparedness is a welcome move as criticism reigned over the regimented publication of National Grid’s winter outlook report for 14/15 in October despite the known capacity constraint that was looming.

The truth is though that such pre-preparedness is a feature of National Grid’s model and as such this forward thinking is not out of the ordinary. What is however is the minuscule capacity margin available next winter. Already forecast to be worse than the tight situation in 2014/15.

The grid has offered three contracts to South Humber Bank and Barry gas fired power stations, both owned by Centrica, as well as the gas-fired plant owned by Corby Power.

In total the contracted power will equate to 600MW with Corby contributing more than 50% of the total.

The contracting under the Supplemental Balancing Reserve (SBR) scheme means that as in Winter 2014 for SSE’s Peterhead plant RWE’s Littlebrook and Scottish Power’s Ryehouse, the stations will be required to be available to National Grid to call on for emergency supply between 0600 and 2000 between November and February 2015/16.

This balancing reserve is essential to keep the lights on as overall capacity in the market dwindles and the uncertainty of winter weather casts a shadow over forecasting predictability.

The spectre of blackouts, already heavy in 2014, remains an even bigger concern for future years. As a result National Grid has also begun the tendering for 300MW Demand Side Balancing Reserve (DSBR) contracts requiring subject customers to reduce demand at peak times.

In total National Grid will be tendering for 1,800MW for each of the DSBR and SBR schemes in an attempt to head off blackouts through winter 2015/16

National Grid’s Director of UK Market Operation Cordi O’Hara admitted:

“We already know that the margin between supply and demand next winter is expected to be tight, mainly due to plant closures. These contracts represent a prudent initial step, which will support us in balancing supply and demand.

“We might be in the middle of this winter, but as a prudent system operator, it’s vital that we plan ahead to next year and beyond”

With little sign of new plant coming on line and recent moves by the government to remove subsidy from renewable generation sources and fresh closures of operating plant planned, National Grid knows it has a much bigger challenge ahead. As will businesses and consumers as the creaking grid falters and blackouts become commonplace in modern day Britain.