John Collingridge: Sort out the shambles that is our energy sector. It was soon lost in the fog of Brexit, but the power cut last August that left thousands of people stranded on trains, more than 1m people without electricity and a hospital shut down was a story of our times. While simultaneous power station shutdowns might be a stroke of bad luck, that incident exposed the lack of resilience and planning in the UK’s power system — and that will begin to bite very soon. Those big power stations were dirty but they were also reliable, and played a crucial role in stabilising the grid and balancing its frequency. If we’re vulnerable now, what about when the nuclear power stations close in the course of the next decade or so? Recently, Japan’s nuclear giants Toshiba and Hitachi have both walked away from building new ones. In place of these big power stations, a fragmented and hugely complex patchwork has evolved — one in which the owners of back-up diesel generators and batteries are paid handsomely to provide tiny slivers of energy in an emergency, and subsea cables suck power from the Continent.
Times 5th Jan 2020 read more »