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Blackout risk this winter highest in a decade, warns National Grid

Britain's electricity safety buffer is at the lowest since 2007 and a cold winter could see an energy supply crunch.

power stationThe risk of blackouts this winter will be higher than it has been for almost a decade, National Grid warned on Monday.

The Grid said reserve supplies of electricity will be wafer thin after a dramatic fall in the amount of coal-based power plants operating across the UK. And it warned it may have to issue NISMs – warnings to industry to bring mothballed plant into action or increase generation to cope.

National Grid expert Chris Train said that in a cold winter, the UK's electricity "margin" or safety buffer will be just 5 per cent, almost half last year's level and the lowest since early in 2007.

He told an industry conference this morning: "Things will be tighter than they have been historically."

He insisted it was wrong to say Britain faced blackouts and that he was confident extra energy would flow from the Continent if the country risked a supply shortage. He would not comment on the likelihood manufacturers may be forced to cut back on their electricity or gas use at times of peak demand.

But the forecast will only heighten fears of the supply crunch Britain faces as older power plant reach the end of their life before a fleet of new more environmentally friendly capacity can be built.

The Grid's own analysis shows the availability of coal fired plant has fallen almost 20pc since last winter to 20.3Gw. This fall comes at a time coal prices are dropping, making the fuel far cheaper to use.

In June, industry regulator Ofgem warned there could be energy shortages in the middle of the decade as the UK had failed to build enough new wind farms and power stations. It said the risk of future blackouts had trebled. 

Posted by The Telegraph 07/10/13