Reduced usage of electricity during Britain’s lockdown period could cause problems to the countries power grid, the UK energy system operator has warned.
The National Grid has stated that due to the record low demand for power from across the UK that some power plants and windfarms may have to be turned off to ensure that the grid does not get overloaded.
National grid has predicted that demand for electricity could drop by up to 20 per cent of pre lockdown levels. This means that if supply carries on as normal there could be an excess supply of electricity to the grid.
Households and homes in Britain are currently using more electricity than pre lockdown as more people work from home however overall demand has dropped due to the lockdown causing the closure of many offices, restaurants, schools and factories.
The head of the national grid’s control room, Roisin Quinn, has warned that the decreased demand for electricity may put the network under much higher levels of stress. She went on to say that even though the demand has dropped the jobs of system operators are still as important as they have to manage the grid as much as they would have to during peak demand time periods.
Low demand paired with increased levels of power production can lead to a raised risk of local energy grids becoming overloaded and make the energy networks not as resilient to a change of frequency. Where frequency is a measure of the intensity of the energy and fluctuations in this may lead to temporary blackouts.
The plan for the control room of the national grid is to pay the flexible wind farms, who are able to quickly reduce the power they are generating, so that they switch off at short notice. They also plan on reducing the amount of electricity that is imported from Europe through under the sea cables to make sure that the UK energy network does not become overwhelmed.
Fintan Slye, the director of National Grid, has stated that even though the ongoing situation is ‘very fluid’ the National Grid are still implementing many measures to make sure that all UK customers will still receive a reliable and secure electricity supply during the outbreak.
Many of the measures that the National Grid are looking to implement have already been tried and tested in the past, especially in remote locations in northern Scotland. Here demand can often be low whilst electricity production can be high from the strong winds which cause the wind farms to generate excess electricity. However, the measures are planned to be used more frequently and over longer periods of times than previously tested.
It is believed that in some days over summer of this year that demand may fall below the ‘baseload’ output from inflexible power plants, such as nuclear power plants. These power plants can take hours to shutdown safely therefore the National Grid may have to be forced to use emergency orders to shut down some power plants to make sure that the grid does not get overloaded.
The National Grid made its forecasts for the demand for electricity over summer shortly after demand fell to record lows of just 15.2 gigawatts over the Easter weekend which is already below the predictions of 17.6 gigawatts for summer.
Quinn has reassured the British public by stating that the national grid does not expect how the electricity system is operated to be adversely effected.