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Big is not so beautiful in Grid talks to power down via The Times

Emily Gosden, Energy Editor, 5 May 2020, The Times

More than £50 million could be paid to EDF to reduce power output from Britain’s largest nuclear reactor and avert the risk of blackouts this summer.

National Grid is negotiating with the French energy group to halve generation from Sizewell B in Suffolk as part of a series of measures to help it to keep the lights on.

The lockdown has caused a drop in electricity demand that is making it much harder for National Grid to manage the system and threatens to overwhelm the network with surplus power. The company has warned of a “significant risk of disruption to security of supply” over the Bank Holiday weekend unless it is granted emergency powers to disconnect excess solar and wind farms.

Last night National Grid was understood to be finalising the contract with EDF as a further measure to shore up the system before Friday, in case sunny weather brings record low demand. The costs will ultimately feed through to consumer energy bills.

National Grid has to keep supply and demand balanced in real time to prevent blackouts, such as that of August 9 last year, when a million homes were cut off. It needs to have certain types of flexible power plants running, such as gas plants and some wind farms, that can adjust their output at short notice in a way that Sizewell can not. When demand is very low, it may be impossible to have these plants running as well as Sizewell without ending up with too much power. Second, Sizewell’s reactor is the largest single generation unit in Britain, producing enough power for more than two million homes. If it failed it could cause a huge imbalance in supply and demand and a dangerous drop in frequency that could trigger other plants to fail. This happened after the failures of two other power stations last August.

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