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Page added on October 30, 2007

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UK: Rising fear of energy crisis this winter

Electricity shortages and gas supply problems predicted to push bills up

Britain faces the prospect of power shortages and soaring prices this winter after the National Grid warned of a shortfall in electricity-generating capacity yesterday. The alert coincides with a surge in gas prices, which are now 40% higher than in continental Europe, and the confirmation that a vital import plant in South Wales will not be operational this winter.

And it emerged last night that the energy minister, Malcolm Wicks, met power providers and users last week to discuss mounting concerns that the UK was heading into another winter of soaring prices and power shortages, similar to the one that forced some manufacturers to shut down capacity 24 months ago.

The warning by the Grid, which operates the pylons and other parts of the electricity transmission system, came days after it reassured ministers that an earlier alert was nothing to worry about and that there were no expectations of power blackouts this winter.

The fragility of the country’s power infrastructure is partly the result of a series of breakdowns at the UK’s ageing nuclear reactors. It is an embarrassment to the government, which has often insisted that two years of price peaks and insecurity would end in 2007 as Britain benefited from extra investment in pipelines and import facilities.


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