Winter Is Coming… National Grid Winter Outlook 2019-20

National Grid confident there will be enough gas and electricity to meet winter demand even if the UK leaves the European Union without a deal.

The electricity system operator offers the reassurance in its Winter Outlook 2019-20, where it also reveals the surplus electricity margin is set to be greater than the same period last year.

The annual Winter Outlook report provides National Grid’s view of the security of gas and electricity supplies for the forthcoming winter.

It is based on consultation feedback from stakeholders across the energy sector along with regular conversations with industry partners.

The UK is due to exit the EU on 31 October, so that throws in an additional ‘unknown’ into the 2019-20 prediction.

The new forecast predicts:

  1. The margin on the electricity system is greater than last winter and well within the Reliability Standard set by the Government
  2. The gas supply margin is expected to be sufficient in all scenarios.
  3. National Grid anticipates no additional adequacy or operability challenges for the coming winter as a result of the UK’s planned exit from the EU.
  4. National Grid has the tools and services it needs to enable us to manage anticipated gas and electricity operability challenges across the winter period.
Electricity pylons on a winter's day with snow on the ground
BIG FREEZE: Will snow & ice pose problems for Britain’s power network this winter? National Grid is confident the system will cope

The summary suggests electricity transmission system demand to peak at 46.4 GW, which is lower than 2018-19.

There’s expected to be 2.7 GW of net electricity imports, with sufficient margin even in the worst-case scenario of no interconnector flows between Britain and continental Europe in the case of a crash-out Brexit.

As is typical during winter, gas demand will be higher than electricity. National Grid predicts there’ll be 3.9 times the amount of gas used than electric, although nearly a quarter (23.5%) of gas demand is actually for electricity generation.

Global production of liquefied natural gas (LNG) currently outstrips demand, so National Grid’s overview expects to see similarly high levels of LNG to the UK over the coming months.

This could cause problems if there is high demand for LNG from Japan, China and South Korea, which could lead to price hikes and higher energy bills for customers.

Peak gas demand could top 499 million cubic metres per day, the highest ever recorded demand. While at 52.3 billion cubic metres, overall demand for gas in 2019-20 is set to be slightly higher than last year.

This is due to increased exports to Ireland and Europe.

Set For Another “Record-Breaking” Winter?

“If weather conditions are similar this winter, we expect this positive trend to continue and anticipate more records being broken, including increasing levels of renewable generation.

“The energy landscape is changing rapidly and there are fundamental changes to energy and society ahead.

“An increase in cleaner energy sources like wind and solar, and emerging technologies such as battery storage and electric vehicles.

“Looking at electricity specifically, it’s our ambition to be able to operate the GB electricity system carbon-free by 2025.”

– Fintan Slye, Director of National Grid ESO

Winter can pose additional problems for power grids. When temperatures plummet electricity demand rises, while renewables contribute less to the mix than in the sunny summer.

Severe winter weather such as high winds and snow can also pose a threat to electricity networks, with trees knocking out power lines or floods damaging essential infrastructure.

The Winter Outlook report came out in the aftermath of Operation Yellowhammer, the leaked government plans for a no-deal Brexit which warned of a marked hike in energy prices if the UK leaves the European Union without a formal agreement.

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