Green Britain: UK Manufacturers Warn Of Shutdowns Amid Energy Emergency Measures

  • Date: 23/11/14
  • Tanya Powley, Financial Times

Britain’s heavy manufacturers have warned they may be forced to shut down more often this winter to avoid high power costs because of emergency measures to cut demand.

The National Grid launched its Demand Side Balancing Reserve scheme – which pays participating companies to reduce their demand during peak winter weekday evenings – to combat the risk of blackouts.

 It is also keeping three power stations on standby to supply more power if needed after the country’s cushion of spare generating capacity sank to 4 per cent, compared with 17 per cent three years ago.

However, if used, the DSBR could add further complexity to an existing system using “triads”, which determines how the biggest electricity customers are charged for using the transmission network.

Triads are three half-hour periods during which demand is at its highest across the UK. They can fall any time between the beginning of November and the end of February, and businesses are charged significantly more during these 30-minute windows to penalise consumption at peak times.

Many of Britain’s heaviest energy users try to guess when the triads will be and reduce their energy use during these periods. However, recently, triads have become more difficult to predict because of milder weather and more companies trying to avoid them.

According to Npower, the energy company, the DSBR could make triads more difficult to predict by effectively “flattening” demand – making it harder to pinpoint when they will occurred. […]

Richard Warren, senior energy and environmental policy adviser at the EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, agrees the initiative could result in more production reduction and shutdowns.

“Last winter’s mild weather had a noticeable impact on triad predictability, and likewise we can expect increased demand reduction activity to contribute to uncertainty,” he said.

Last year, Celsa UK, a steel manufacturer, shut down daily for up to three hours at peak times to avoid a triad. Juan Garcia Marquina, the company’s energy director, said avoiding triads would remain a gamble and become even more complicated

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