National Grid Seeks Extra Winter Electricity
National Grid has brought forward plans to tap additional power capacity over the winter after unexpected plant outages raised the risk of shortages.
It is being described as a precautionary move, supported by Government, to safeguard supply rather than any bid to prevent possible blackouts.
National Grid said it had launched a tender for its Supplemental Balancing Reserve (SBR), asking power firms how much more electricity they could provide the network to fill a potential gap from mothballed or closed generators.
The network operator cited a series of unplanned shutdowns at large power stations for its decision to begin SBR a year ahead of its original timetable, having previously warned of a looming supply crunch.
Fires at E.ON's Ironbridge and SSE's Ferrybridge power plants have reduced output while precautionary checks at EDF Energy's Heysham and Hartlepool nuclear plants have also hit production.
The worries over future supplies were initially sparked by ageing and most-polluting power stations being shut down at a time when new plants are struggling to make up the shortfall.
National Grid's plan to safeguard supplies at peak winter times also includes a scheme that allows it to ask contracted users, mostly factories, to reduce their electricity demand when the system is strained.
It said it had received a positive response to the programme, known as Demand Side Balancing Reserve (DSBR), which could operate between 4pm and 8pm on weekday evenings between November and February.
It planned to issue contracts later this month which would be activated only if required.
National Grid's Director of UK Market Operation, Cordi O'Hara, said of the announcement: "This is a sensible precaution to take while the picture for this winter remains uncertain.
"At this stage we don't know if these reserve services will be needed, but they could provide an additional safeguard".