WHAT IS IT AND WILL IT AFFECT ME?
The Energy Gap is the name for the difference between the peak demand for electricity and the maximum amount of electricity which can be supplied by the National Grid (the Grid). For many years there was a surplus of supply over demand, but there isn’t now.
In October 2014 the Grid published a graph which was intended to provide confidence to the public and business world alike: it showed that a 17% surplus in 2011-2012 had dwindled to a 4.1% surplus. Nevertheless it showed a surplus. Unfortunately for everyone, Didcot B power station in Bedfordshire burned down almost immediately afterwards losing 7% of the Grid’s capacity, and the energy gap was born. On 21st May 2015, Didcot C was closed down; it was working perfectly but it was no longer compliant with the EU Emissions Regulations. A further 7% was lost.
Between then and the end of March 2016 a further 5 power stations have closed for the same reasons. The modest Energy Gap at the end of 2014 now well exceeds 20% and it will continue to grow. Further power stations will be closed and in a report published in January 2016 an Energy Gap of 56% was forecast by 2025! Whether or not that forecast is completely accurate we cannot say, but what is beyond doubt is that the country will be facing colossal problems in continuously supplying houses and businesses with electricity.
WHAT IS BEING DONE ABOUT IT?
Lots of things. There are various plans for renewable energy supplies, but the only really effective one for the country is Solar Power, which is really good on a perfectly clear summer’s day (capable of producing 16% of the needs of the Grid). But it usually produces much less than that and is of little value in winter with the current technology. Wind turbines produce too little to have any real effect on the problems of supply. Huge banks of generators are being assembled, but they do not replace power stations. Wave and tide solutions are expensive and are years away from production.
The proposed new power station at Hinkley Point in Somerset has been in the news a fair bit with the Chinese dipping in and out and with the problems of EDF much publicised. The probability is that Hinkley Point will not be built at all; but if it does, it won’t be ready for at least 15 years and even then will only produce 7% of the Grid’s requirement.
Low energy light bulbs and domestic appliances make a difference to household bills, but don’t really affect the Grid. Paying steel works to shut down at peak times, and persuading hotels to turn off air conditioning help a bit, but on the other hand new railway projects such as HS2, the Pennine Link and the Manchester-Glasgow Line all consume enormous amounts of electricity. Ironically electric cars, which use the fast charge “pumps” at fuel stations consume a great deal – and so it goes on.
HOW WILL IT AFFECT ME?
The shocking truth is that power cuts will affect many houses and businesses on a regular basis for the foreseeable future. Again, in January 2016, a different report stated that we will all face a 80% chance of a blackout next winter. That doesn’t mean to say that they will necessarily be of long duration, but it shows that we are all vulnerable – and it will only get worse over the next 10 years.
Everything in this article is in the public domain. Please do remember that the Energy Gap is the difference between peak demand and peak supply, so for a lot of the time the Grid will cope – but power cuts in winter will become a regular aspect of many people’s lives. So too will be a back-up generator which cuts in automatically whenever there is a power cut and cuts out again when power is restored, and which is the only viable safety-net for house owners and businesses, particularly in rural areas in the short to medium term future.
WHAT DO I DO NEXT?
Talk to us! We are completely independent, which means we can source exactly the right machine for you. We will explain the types of generator and fuel that are likely to be right for your property or business. We then visit you to assess the amount of electricity you will actually need, and to confirm or revise our initial recommendations. We will discuss where the generator should be sited and install it when it suits you. We comply with building and electrical regulations and will register the Elecsa (“P”) certificate. Apart from occasional servicing which we will do, this will be a “fit and forget” installation – a complete solution to any problems with future power cuts.
** Lord Redesdale, Chief Executive of the Energy Managers Association