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Winter madness

National Grid plc will pay £122 million to keep ten coal and gas power stations in reserve to ensure that Britain gets through the winter without power cuts. These stations have been deemed redundant, unfriendly to the environment and so on by those who dream that all power can come from windmills.

That price is only for keeping the stations in reserve but not fired up. If they are used, NG will have to pay these companies further unquantified sums, certainly running into millions of pounds. NG trumpets the 0.1 per cent increase in reserve spare margin capacity under this deal as a major success. That’s the opposite of the truth.

NG’s own analysis only three months ago showed that an increase from 1.1 to 1.2 per cent places them with the same margin it had last winter. Capacity has risen by this fraction because the Eggborough coal-fired station has been brought back on line and the export of electricity to Ireland by subsea cable is out of action.

It’s madness that power generation in Britain is being run at crisis levels and yet electricity is exported. Is it acceptable that the privatised power industry can hold NG to ransom over spare capacity margins in Britain? Or that the unexpected re-directing of an export sale into the home market allows them to squeeze through yet another winter crisis? It might be tough on the Irish economy but very nice for the shareholders of the privatised utilities.

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