EDITOR’S COMMENT: the National Grid was predicting a blackout because of low wind output, just weeks after Boris Johnson announced his bonkers plan to power Britain by wind…

National Grid last night sent out an urgent call for more power stations to fire up to keep Britain’s lights on today after plant outages and low wind farm output increased the risk of blackouts. The electricity system operator issued an “margin notice”, its most serious security of supply alert in four years, warning of a supply crunch between 4:30pm and 6:30pm today.

It forecast a shortfall of 740 megawatts, or 1.5 per cent, compared with the power plant capacity it wants to have available to meet demand and to provide back-up in case plants break down. Sources said the operator was in talks for coal-fired power stations to fire up to provide back-up. EDF confirmed it had been asked to warm up its West Burton A plant in Nottinghamshire.

National Grid said the margin notice “highlights that we would like a greater safety cushion between power demand and available supply” but “does not signal that blackouts are imminent”.

The alert and the prospect of Britain relying on polluting coal plants to keep the lights on will raise concerns about energy security. All coal plants are due to close by October 2024, while the government recently committed to a renewed push for offshore wind farms.

National Grid said that it was “forecasting tight margins on the electricity system . . . owing to a number of factors, including low renewable output and the availability of generators over periods of the day with higher demand”. It was “exploring measures to make sure there is enough generation available to increase our buffer of capacity”.

Tom Edwards, an analyst at Cornwall Insight, a consultancy, said that power prices for today had jumped and may rise further. He said it appeared that “low wind and not receiving quite as much power from the Dutch and Irish as usual” through subsea power cables had contributed to the alert.

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