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The Brink of Darkness: Britain’s Fragile Power Grid

Lockdown reveals Britain’s power grid is fragile, expensive and failing – because of renewables.

London, 10 June — The Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) is today publishing a collection of papers by energy expert Dr John Constable, documenting the rapid decay of the UK electricity system, with system balancing costs spiralling out of control over the last few weeks.

The cost of balancing the grid over the Bank Holiday weekend amounted to £50m, and National Grid has predicted additional costs of £700m from May to August alone. It has taken desperate measures in an attempt to reduce the bill, but according to expert observers, these may well prove futile.

GB system balancing costs have been rising sharply over recent decades, as inflexible renewables have taken a leading role in electricity supply, driven by £10 billion a year of subsidies and price-fixing arrangements. In 2002 system balancing cost £367m, but by 2019 it had risen to just under £1.5bn, a level that was expected to be sustained this year.

However, because wind and solar can’t respond to the low demand caused by lockdown, National Grid now expects the total to be about £2bn, and even that figure is based on the optimistic assumption that costs return to normal after August.

If the lockdown runs on into the autumn, the cost could easily rise by hundreds of millions more, and a prolonged post-Covid recession could mean consumers having to foot this bill for many years to come.

Dr Constable, author of the GWPF study, said:

“Renewables have been undermining the UK electricity system for years, with National Grid propping up a tottering system with vast piles of consumer cash. The Covid-19 lockdown has caused a balancing cost surge and revealed this green appeasement policy as unsustainable. The UK’s fragile renewables-based system can barely deal with the expected; a surprise causes a crisis.”

Dr Constable added:

“If demand remains low during the post-Covid recession the multi-billion pound costs of managing and subsidising renewables must be recovered from a much smaller volume of sales. That is a recipe for rapid and abrupt price rises, the like of which the British public have never seen. Enough is enough. In what everyone agrees is a very difficult moment the national interest demands a cost minimisation strategy for electricity, based on gas and nuclear.”

John Constable: The Brink of Darkness: Britain’s Fragile Power Grid (PDF)