Scotland’s energy minister Fergus Ewing has accused the UK government of complacency a week after National Grid was forced to issue an urgent request for more electricity.
Last Wednesday a spike in energy usage resulted in a shortfall and National Grid issued an emergency request for 500MW additional capacity. It eventually procured around 40MW, but from Severn Trent at a price of £2,500/MWh, substantially higher than the average cost at that time of circa £60.
The incident came just weeks after National Grid’s Winter Outlook report revealed capacity margins could be as low as 1.2% this winter without contingency services, and Ewing said the problem highlighted complacency of the UK’s energy policy. A capacity margin of around 5% is considered to be the desirable level.
“The Scottish government have warned the UK government – repeatedly and at the highest levels – of the consequences of declining capacity margins, both face to face and in letters from the first minister to the Prime Minister. These warnings have been ignored and advice rebuffed, despite mounting evidence of a problem,” Ewing said.
He added that the price paid for electricity during Wednesday’s peak showed how “worrying” the situation had become and said that it was bill payers that would ultimately pay the price.
Ewing has since written to energy secretary Amber Rudd again, calling for urgent changes to government energy policy and to seek reassurances that proper considerations are being given to energy security issues.
The letter also pressed the UK government to change current policy directions in favour of the faster build out of new power generation capacity, as well as increased energy storage and carbon capture technologies.
“Scotland is an energy-rich country and is the ideal base for the development of a range of technologies which could alleviate the situation, including wind energy, carbon capture and storage and pumped storage hydro. But this will require movement on policy from the UK Government to encourage increasing energy system flexibility, security, and sustainability,” Ewing added.