Consecutive governments have failed to address potential energy shortages, leaving a dangerously close margin of error over the winter months.
The National Grid has warned that a combination of generator closures and breakdowns will leave spare electricity capacity at just 4% over the coldest months, down from 5% last year and 17% in 2012. The lack of a coherent back-up plan or new plants being opened, this could lead to a shortfall if demand exceeds expectations.
The revelation has been heavily criticised by business figures and groups, with Adam Marshall, a director at the British Chamber of Commerce, saying: “for too long, the UK has failed to plan adequately to guarantee the energy supplies required for our economy… and consumers.”
Dan Lewis, energy policy adviser at the Institute of Directors, claims that governments have failed to act on 15 years of warning signs. “It really didn’t need to happen,” he said, pointing out that “if you add up the plants being closed down and then the newly constructed power plants, we have a net loss of 12 gigawatts.”
Politicians need to “start thinking hard about how to find renewable energy we can realistically integrate at a reasonable rate,” he added.
While energy minister Matt Hancock has said that the failures stretch back to the time of the Labour government and that the Conservatives are giving the National Grid “new tools they need to meet energy demand,” Lewis is unconvinced by the proposed “incentivisation” strategy.
“Now they are actually proposing to pay people not to work. It’s the last thing the economy needs,” he said.