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Britain’s National Grid to Keep DFS Scheme to Prevent Winter Blackouts

National Grid’s Electricity System Operator

There are fewer chances that Britain will lose power this winter. This bit of positive news came from the operator of the country’s electricity system.

The National Grid’s Electricity System Operator said it will continue the DFS scheme. This was previously implemented to prevent blackouts.

The demand flexibility service or DFS rolled out in 2022. The scheme came on the heels of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The plan paid volunteer households to turn off their main appliances. They do this during peak hours. The country first activated the DFS in January. But not after strenuous testing and several false alarms.

Now the National Grid’s ESO is saying it’s wise to continue with the DFS program. The operator also said the terms for the scheme are now available for consultation.

The ESO has released its early winter outlook report. It showed that the National Grid has enough capacity to meet the country’s power demands this winter. This is positive news after the turmoil the country faced in 2022. This was when the Russo-Ukrainian War kicked off. That resulted in gas flows from Russia stopping. It also led to countries scrambling to find enough supplies in Europe.

The National Grid report showed estimated an 8% margin. The number is what’s expected for most winter seasons. It also has more wiggle room than forecasted the previous year. It also revealed that there’s a reduced period when power demands could outpace supply to only 0.1 hours. That’s an improvement from the 0.2 hours of the previous year.

ESO Corporate Affairs Director Jacob Rigg described it as a healthy situation. But he admitted that there will be days when demand and supply will be tight. He explained that cold snaps could happen. They expect they will use conventional operational tools when this happens.

Rigg said they’re hoping the wind blows will help with energy generation from the country’s wind farms. This is crucial as Britain can’t rely on coal. While it filled the void in 2022, its use will be more limited this year.

The ESO also admitted the country has fewer reserves in its coal-fired generation. The operator said they’re still discussing the possibility of using a pair of Drax coal units. They want it in their contingency contracts. But they already returned one of the units provided for contingency last winter. Two other units used then are now shut down.

The UK played a key role in providing the continent with its gas needs before winter arrived last year. It was a strenuous race to store enough and to prevent the lights from going out. It wasn’t an easy task considering how the country depended on Russia for gas, especially Germany.

But Britain usually imported electricity from its neighbors in the North Sea. This happens more often during winter.

A mild 2022 –2023 winter saw Europe closing the cold season with an impressive volume of gas in its storage. This happened because the continent also had an alternative supply of energy.

The ESO report appeared confident of Britain’s power output. It stated they expect to have enough operational surplus in its base case. It also said it will be enough to last throughout winter. But it also acknowledged the grim reality that the supply chain is unstable.

Rigg discussed this in an interview he gave to a PA news agency. He warned that Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine has affected the world’s energy system. It made the system riskier. These could appear in the availability of gas and energy. It could manifest itself across the European continent.

The National Grid will update its report again this September. The ESO said it’s waiting until that quarter to create another report. This will provide another assessment of gas availability in winter. The report stated it’s still too early to provide a definitive analysis.

The report noted the continuing uncertainties due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It’s the reason the ESO is exploring the availability of various operational options.

One such option is gas-fired power plants. These were responsible for over 40% of Britain's electricity production in 2022. Meanwhile, fossil fuel was also utilized. It provided heat to about 80% of homes in Britain.

A separate report by the National Gas Transmission Company gave a different forecast. It said there could be an 8% decrease in local distribution zone demand. This often reflects the heating demands of households. It changed because the high energy prices are now expected to remain unchanged. It’s also set to keep going at the same levels it did the previous winter.

The ESO might sound confident about the country’s power capacity issue. But market experts have other concerns. They expect the cost of gas and electricity to increase over the colder months. They say this will happen as the demand for electricity goes up. This could result in households paying more. The increase in household expenses can happen due to the energy price cap.

The price cap is also expected to kick in starting July. This will come on the heels of the government stopping its price guarantee. The program reduced the wholesale prices consumers faced these past few months.

The energy cap’s level was a little above £2,000 for the average bill per year. This is down from the £2,500 estimate placed under the government guarantee.

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