By Susanna Twidale
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s electricity and gas grid operators said on Thursday they expect to have sufficient supplies this winter, with more power generation available than last year and brimming gas stores across Europe, but cautioned geopolitical risks remain.
Last year, National Grid’s Electricity System Operator (ESO) warned Britain could face three-hour planned power cuts if the country was unable to import enough gas as Europe grappled with reduced supply from Russia and low gas storage levels.
“If you look at that risk position compared with this year and last year, the risks are much much lower now,” ESO Head of National Control, Craig Dyke said in an interview to coincide with the publication of its winter outlook.
In a separate report, National Gas, which is responsible for maintaining Britain’s gas supplies also said it expected to have sufficient supplies this winter.
Dyke said the supply picture was better this year due to higher availability of the French nuclear fleet, which often supplies Britain with electricity, more gas and wind capacity and additional battery storage capabilities.
ESO said its base case for de-rated margin, which is a measure of the amount of excess capacity expected above peak electricity demand, is currently 4.4 gigawatts (GW) for winter 2023/24, or 7.4% of capacity, up from 3.7 GW, or 6.3% last winter.
Dyke said geopolitical risks to supply still remain, given the ongoing war in Ukraine, and that under extreme circumstances it could be forced to curb supply, but the risk of this happening has severely diminished since last year.
ESO will again use its demand flexibility service (DFS) which pays people, usually via money off their bills, for turning off appliances such as ovens and dishwashers during a specific periods when electricity demand is high.
Last winter, the scheme saved over 3,300 megawatt hours of electricity or enough to power 10 million homes, but Dyke said it expects to treble the amount of capacity available under the mechanism this year.
The prospect for gas supplies is also improved this year, National Gas said in its winter outlook.
“It would take a combination of events (e.g. a very cold winter in the UK coinciding with a major interruption to one of our gas supply sources) for there to be a material risk to our energy security,” Ian Radley, Systems Operations Director at National Gas said in a statement,
A significant slump in Russian gas exports to Europe last year following the Russia’s invasion of Ukraine meant Britain exported record amounts of gas to the continent last year.
National Gas said this was unlikely to be repeated this winter as Europe has built up high amounts of gas storage and built terminals to allow it to import more liquefied natural gas. (LNG).
Total British gas demand for this winter is forecast at 7.8 billion cubic metres (bcm), some 1.5 bcm lower than the actual demand in winter 2022/23, National Gas said.
The Electricity System Operator is a legally separate businesses within National Grid responsible for operating the country’s electricity system. National Gas is responsible for operating Britain’s gas grid.
(Reporting By Susanna Twidale; editing by Christina Fincher)