Electricity shortages in the UK: Some households asked for dishwashers and washing machines to be switched off

Britain’s power grid is urging some UK homes to cut energy use on Monday as a slump in wind power and freezing temperatures across the country test its ability to keep lights on.

National Grid is expected to use the emergency response for the first time to alleviate a supply shortage. Beginning at 5:00 p.m., Centrica, EON and Octopus Energy customers who have signed up for the program will be asked not to use dishwashers or washing machines during a two-hour peak period.

“Our forecasts show that electricity supply margins are expected to be tighter than normal on Monday evening,” the grid operator said. “These are precautionary measures to maintain the buffer of free capacity.”

The demand reduction tool was previously in test mode, but is now live when needed. The grid operator had previously instructed three reserve coal-fired power plants to be ready for power on Monday evening, but subsequently shut them down again. Peak season prices are the highest since December 21st.

The measures are a stark reminder that Europe’s power crisis is far from over and highlight the risk of the UK’s ever-shrinking generation buffer. It also makes the nation more dependent on imports from France, which is struggling with its own nuclear crisis and can’t export as much as it used to.

The government is under pressure to introduce energy efficiency measures such as insulation to help households save money and energy. The UK’s particularly leaky housing stock means that as energy prices soar, consumers will feel the impact of rising bills. Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt last year pledged £6 billion (R127 billion) to help insulate homes and upgrade boilers. However, ministers have tried several energy efficiency programs over the past decade that have not achieved mass adoption.

Maxar Technologies is forecasting it to be as cold as minus 2C in London on Monday and sub-zero temperatures are boosting demand. Consumption is expected to peak at 44.7 gigawatts on Monday night, up from 42.2 gigawatts on Sunday, grid data shows.

Households are being asked to throttle demand by up to 336 megawatts from 5 p.m. The National Grid program runs until the end of March, but it is hoped that success will encourage utilities to continue offering savings to customers to reduce peak-time consumption. Reducing demand is one way to balance the grid without requiring new generating capacity.

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