UK acts to avoid blackout repeats

3 September 2003
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04 September 2003 | David Arminas

Britain's electricity grid operator is taking action to ensure a US-style blackout that crippled parts of North America does not happen in the UK.

A spokesman at National Grid Transco (NGT) said a massive failure is only "a very remote" possibility.

It is seeking more turn-down contracts, where large businesses and industrial consumers agree to use less power if problems arise.

"Turn-down contracts may involve a payment to the user on signing and then further payments should they be called on to use less electricity," he said.

Ian Dobson, chairman of the CIPS energy committee, said: "The grid has had better investment overall and specifically to prevent US-style blackouts."

But he fears the biggest issue facing major users is an impending lack of generation.

In 10 years, the 20 per cent over-capacity will disappear because nuclear generators will be decommissioned in favour of building wind farms.

"The government needs to build 20 wind turbines a week by 2010 to meet demand and it's just not going to happen," he said.

Nearly 60 million people in the New York and Toronto areas were left without power while businesses had to close during the summer heat wave.

In the UK, around £3 billion has been spent on improving the grid since privatisation in 1990, and it coped well with increased requirements during the UK's record-breaking hot spell.


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