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Image: Thomas Nicholls

UK electricity grid crashed on Monday

British energy supplies fell below critical levels on Monday night as several UK power stations broke down, according to Kiran Stacey in the Financial Times:

“Power prices jumped to £1,250 per megawatt hour at one point as the company that runs the UK’s electricity network rushed to make sure there was a big enough gap between demand and supply. The normal price per MWh in the summer is about £50.”

National Grid was forced to issue a Notification of Inadequate System Margin notice at 7.00pm on Monday, obliging heavy electricity consuming businesses to shut down their operations to prevent the lights going out – only the third time that this has had to be done since 2009:

“The last time the company took such action was after similar plant breakdowns last November, when it also paid heavy users for the first time to turn down their equipment.  Analysts said that issuing such a notice at warmer times of the year was highly unusual and illustrated Britain’s continuing reliance on ageing coal power stations, several of which broke down on Monday night.”

The outage does not bode well for winter 2016/17, as National Grid had already warned of narrow capacity margins.  With many coal power stations closing ahead of their statutory closure in 2025, and with few new large energy generation projects likely to come on stream for several years, the UK is looking desperately short of the energy we need to keep our economy running.

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