Will there be electricity blackouts in the UK? Yes, but only for fridges.

Prediction: by year 2020 all UK households will be supplied with circuit breakers to be fitted to the plugs of our fridges, freezers etc. Whenever the national voltage drops below 230v the breakers will cut out. New appliances will have the breakers inbuilt.

We now have a 25% chance of electricity blackouts in the UK each year, especially between 16h00 and 20h00 (4pm and 8pm) in the winter months. The UK government has rejected suggestions of extending variable supply contracts from heavy industry to other large consumers such a retail stores.

Behind this vulnerability has been effectively a “dash for coal” by the generating companies because coal has become so cheap on the world market. However, even though the industry’s carbon allowances are now becoming exhausted, the race remains on who can gain the most in the time that is left, and not on collective planning for the future.

It is a bit like a students’ party, when someone says “hey guys, we’re running out of beer” and everyone just refills their own glass faster; rather than anyone organising and buying or making more. The regulator (ie the adult at the party) has no real power when compared with the companies (ie the intoxicated kids). There is more money to be made in the energy market from being selfish than from being prudent.

Worse, the efforts to reduce demand in the domestic sector were being pinned on the government’s Green Deal, however reports this week show it has failed to take hold, with only four completed households nationally to date. The government response has been that this is due to teething problems with the computer software, and that many households have replaced their boilers off-scheme after an assessment.

We know we have to balance supply and demand to avoid blackouts. Most of us also know that supply is chaotic and that demand is continuing to rise, not least because of the energy demands of consumer electronics. Something has to give, hence my prediction above. To be announced by the new UK government in 2015, blaming the previous government for not “getting a grip”.

Second prediction: retail chiller cabinets will be put on variable supply contracts, but the lights and tills will not.


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