Deficits in British energy reserves has led to regulatory authority Ofgem warning that there may be “controlled disconnections” of homes and businesses in the middle of this decade.

Electricity poleThe regulator’s new analysis reveals the risk of power-cuts is almost 50 per cent in 2015 if a very cold winter causes high demand for electricity.

It predicts Britain will face power shortages because old coal and oil plants are being forced to shut down under the European Union’s environmental regulations. This will partly be replaced by wind farms, which are unreliable, due to the requirement of favourable weather conditions.

It will take around three or four years to build any new gas plants and it would be very difficult to build more coal plants under European rules.

Alistair Buchanan, chief executive of Ofgem, said Britain’s energy system is struggling under the pressure of the “unprecedented challenges” of a global financial crisis, tough environmental targets and the closure of ageing power stations.

Currently, Britain has 14 per cent more power plant capacity than is strictly necessary to keep the lights on. However, this crucial buffer will fall to just four per cent by the middle of the decade.

Ofgem said that in case of shortages “industrial demand will be disconnected first, then household demand if the former is not sufficient”.

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