National Grid "confident" that Britain will not go into blackouts
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National Grid “confident” that Britain will not go into blackouts

By Sam Tabahriti 07 Oct 2021 (Last Updated October 7th, 2021 10:51)

National Grid has forecast that the gap between electricity supply and demand will be narrower this winter, but lights will stay on.

National Grid “confident” that Britain will not go into blackouts
An early assessment made in July totalled 7.3% margin of supply left over at peak times on average. Credit: Fré Sonneveld/Unsplash

Awaited forecasts covering both gas and electricity were released by system operator National Grid, expressing confidence that supply would meet demand over the cold months ahead.

Energy prices have rocketed Europe-wide at unprecedented rates, with energy firms collapsing and energy firm directors warned not to strip assets from failing companies.

The National Grid forecasts an electricity margin of 6.6% capacity, lower than last winter’s 8.3%, but remains that confident lights will not go out.

An early assessment made in July totalled 7.3% margin of supply left over at peak times on average; however, that was before a fire damaged a crucial interconnector in Kent which caused part of it to be out of action until next March.

Although a spike in the wholesale price happened during winter last year as calls to ramp up supply were made, prices this year are already elevated even before the winter sets in. Gas prices have surged across Europe as a result of weaker stocks and tough competition globally to replenish them.

In a separate study, National Grid Gas Transmission (NGGT) said that Britain would have a “positive supply margin”, meaning it can access more gas than is being used during peak demand and predicted imports via ship and pipeline would be sufficient to meet the country’s needs.

However, John Pettigrew, CEO of National Grid, said in a pre-recorded interview video that electricity supply and demand would be closer together than in recent years. Cautioning consumers and businesses of rising wholesale gas prices over the winter, he expects “very similar” levels last seen in 2016/17.

Pettigrew insisted there was “sufficient” electricity generation capacity and availability of natural gas to meet demand. However, it needs to be monitored as unforeseen power stations closures and liquified natural gas deliveries being diverted to other parts of the world “can happen during the winter”.

Pettigrew added: “We have got the [gas] capacity to meet those winter peaks that we are expecting to see but it will impact on price, there is no doubt about it. It’s price that you will see quite high if you’re seeing demand in other parts of the world really pushing on things like LNG.”

Russia indicated it would free up more stocks, which triggered wholesale gas costs to tumble back from record highs, but prices are expected to remain above normal levels.

Ian Radley, director of gas system operations at NGGT, said: “We have a positive gas supply margin in all of our supply and demand scenarios, and there is a positive storage position as we enter the winter.”

Fintan Slye, executive director of the National Grid Electricity System Operator, said: “The Winter Outlook confirms that we expect to have sufficient capacity and the tools needed to meet demand this winter. Margins are well within the reliability standard and therefore we are confident that there will be enough capacity available to keep Britain’s lights on.”