Ed Davey, energy secretary, has proven he packs a punch as potent as the more pugnaciously inclined politicians weíve seen over the years as he candidly pledged to Britainís public that any notions of an energy scarcity this winter are fanciful at best, and that the government has ëcontingencies on top of the contingenciesí in the case of unlikely disaster, amid a number of malfunctions at power stations across the country in recent times intensifying householdsí anxiety over the issue.
EDF Energy shut down two of its longest running nuclear power stations in August following the discovery of a fault in both, an incident which sparked angst by itself even without Didcot Bís, a mass-serving 1.4GW power station, output being halved due to a raging fire which required all firefighters within a 30 mile radius to charge down to relieve the blaze.
The Oxfordshire-based power station generates enough electricity for 1m households, and given its main source of custom is the vastly congested Thames Valley area, a blackout could prove all the more inauspicious.
Yet despite this somewhat burning issue, Ed Davey tenaciously declared in the opening exchanges of an interview with the Sunday Telegraph that ëThere will be no blackouts. Period.î
Mr Davey implied throughout that there is no governmental insecurity over Ofgem & National Gridís forecasting for the coming colder seasons, with the publication of the regulatorís evaluation of UK energy supplies on Tuesday eagerly anticipated.
The fire at Didcot B is the third in a series of blazes at power stations in the UK this year, following one at Ironbridge power station in Shropshire and one at Ferrybridge power plant in West Yorkshire ñ the latter of which caused 2 units from energy giant SSE to be shut indefinitely.
What makes Mr Daveyís comments all the more contentious, yet admirable ñ for their plucky forthrightness – is Ofgemís assertion in June that the risk of blackouts had increased by twofold over the previous 12 months. Especially when his comments at the time are taken into consideration:
Mr Davey, following Ofgemís June warning, stated: ìWithout timely action there would be risks to security of supply.î
Indeed Mr Davey has previously stated his intent to tackle blackouts head on, proving he is no craven when it comes to taking a radical stance to the prevention of winter darkness within homes & workplaces across the UK. The watchdogís publication on Tuesday will contain a progress report on the matter of producing mothball generators so households do not suffer an energy shortage; moreover, government has vowed to pay businesses to close at peak times in another energy-conserving measure.
Mr Daveyís strategy is one founded on risk avoidance and he stresses this in the above interview stating: ìOur standards take account of all kinds of scenarios ñ the coldest weather imaginable, nuclear power stations coming off, several power stations catching fire. Itís all taken account of, because we are cautious.î
He goes onto laud Britainís efforts by comparison to other major world powers, citing China and the USA, as two competitors lying in her wake, whilst seemingly providing measured and composed responses to all the queries levied at him, whilst even tackling the highly contentious issue of Russian provision of energy with no small amount of class and insight, fully justifying his repute as a potential leader of the Liberal party in future times.
That is a different matter, for a separate topic; at present, he appears to be handling the energy situation with a panache not seen in other energy ministers of recent times. However, he and the state of UK energy have their critics, one in particular being Peter Atherton, energy analyst at Liberum Capital, slamming the fires as costing the UK roughly 7% of their energy capacity:
Mr Atherton wrote to Liberum Capitalís customer base saying: ìThis may just be an unusual run of events, or it might suggest that the aging power station fleet is becoming more vulnerable to accidents. The odds are still that UK will escape a security of supply crunch this winter. But the mere fact that a security of supply crisis is a material possibility is in itself a sign of huge policy failure.î
A Government spokesman impressed upon the need for a multi-layered energy strategy to compensate for any potential errors in the provision of fossil-fuel power, stating: ìWe need a diverse energy mix that includes renewable sources like wind which work alongside nuclear and technologies like carbon capture and storage so we can continue to use fossil fuels in a cleaner way.î
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