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Hamish Champ is the editor of PRW. When not doinghis day job he finds time to ride his motorcycle, listen to Deep Purple and take his 12 year-old son to the cinema/park/football/pub...

Will the lights go out this winter?

Posted on 28 October 2014

At first glance the government’s suggestion that manufacturers change their working patterns in order to cut down on their energy use seems like a reasonable idea.

Ministers are set to back up their call for a shift to night-time working with a financial sweetner, although no details have yet been released as to how such an incentive would be paid and on what basis.

But how easy it would be for plants to swap around their working schedules to fit with the government’s plan is hard to say. Some factories, though by no means all, already work several lines 24/7, five days a week. There’s not a lot of slack available, basically.

The government also said businesses should look to generate their own power, presumably by having a bunch of workers on their tea break pedalling furiously on cycling machines hooked up to their manufacturing equipment.

I don’t think many people are taking the threat of energy blackouts seriously. I’m not privy to the ‘stocks and supplies’ situation among the power companies and the National Grid, but maybe we are facing the sort of thing we experienced in the early 1970s, when the lights – and everything else – went out and we played Monopoly by oil lamp.

The energy secretary, Ed Davey, is rebutting the suggestion that because the UK is facing a series of blackouts this winter, but some see this as a distinct possibility.

Meanwhile the recent fire at the Didcot B power station caused considerable consternation, taking out hundreds of thousands of home’s worth of power in a single – albeit massive – blaze.

It was a reminder of what could befall the country if things got worse and will embolden those who want to see shale gas exploration and ultimately extraction speeded up, along with the UK’s nuclear power programme.

Lest we forget, governments are not omnipotent. What those in power – if you’ll pardon the pun – must not do is to allow the country’s energy concerns morph into a crisis.

Contingency plans such as moving to night-time working may sound a bit amateurish, but they are at least a step in the right direction.


The loss of capacity caused by the Didcot B fire was more than made up for by window farms… good fortune saw blustery weather come to the rescue. The station is now back up to strength, isn’t it? Given that we’re coming into winter – a time of gusts and squalls – it might just be that recent investments in wind generation will come to the rescue – if rescue is actually required, which I doubt. Also, given the importance of manufacturing it’s a safe bet that any rolling power cuts will be staged to cause minimal disruption to key parts of the economy.

- 28 October 2014 - Danny Plastic

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