Can blackouts be prevented in winter 23-24?

Article posted

4th Aug 2023

Read time

3-6 min read


Mollie Pinnington

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The National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO) has initiated plans aimed at preventing winter blackouts in the 23-24 period. These schemes encompass various strategies, including increased power generation, demand management, and infrastructural advancements. However, the effectiveness of these plans remains uncertain.

Factors such as weather conditions, energy demands, and unforeseen technical issues can all pose significant challenges. As such, while the ESO's efforts are commendable and necessary, it is crucial to keep in mind that the question of whether blackouts can be completely avoided this coming winter is still open-ended.


When a particularly harsh cold snap hit in March of this year, the Demand Flexibility Service (DFS) proved instrumental in managing the energy crisis. Households and businesses were incentivized to lower their electricity consumption, receiving financial compensation in return.

 This practice, known as demand response, not only eased the strain on our power grids but also empowered consumers by turning them into active participants in energy management. It demonstrated the potential of such innovative, consumer-oriented solutions in maintaining grid stability during peak demand periods. Such solutions, when implemented on a wider scale, can contribute significantly to averting blackouts in the future.


Despite the slight easing of tensions between Russia and Europe, it is crucial to remain vigilant about the potential use of energy as a geopolitical weapon. President Putin could leverage Russia's significant resources to disrupt energy supplies this winter, thereby applying additional pressure on the European Union and the United Kingdom.

Such a move could escalate global energy prices, exacerbating the strain on nations already grappling with energy demands and supply chain issues. This underscores the importance of maintaining a diversified energy portfolio and investing in sustainable, domestically sourced energy solutions to ensure energy security in these uncertain times.


While the Demand Flexibility Service (DFS) played a significant role in mitigating the challenges of last winter, it is critical to remember that the ESO had the additional security of coal-fired power plants at their disposal. These traditional energy sources served as a safety net, providing further assurance against the possibility of blackouts. This backup greatly alleviated concerns, while enabling a more fluid transition towards balancing energy demand. Though coal-fired plants are not a sustainable long-term solution due to their environmental implications, they played a crucial role in last winter's energy security. As we move forward, the challenge will be to replace these traditional sources with more sustainable, reliable options to maintain grid stability throughout winter periods.


However, the scenario for the upcoming winter presents a more challenging picture. The ESO now has fewer power plants to rely on as backup sources of energy. This decrease in traditional energy reserves could potentially put the ESO in a predicament when it comes to finding an emergency plan or backup power.

Dependence on fewer power plants increases the risk factor, as any technical issue or shutdown could have a more pronounced impact on the power supply. This calls for accelerated efforts in finding alternate, reliable sources of energy and more robust strategies for demand management. Our collective goal should be to ensure that even with fewer power plants, we can maintain a steady power supply, particularly during peak demand periods in the harsh winter months. Find out what your business should do in the scenario of a blackout here.

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