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Power grid operator fires up contingency plans as cold snap hits | Business News

Britain’s power system operator has triggered contingency plans in case supplies can’t keep up with demand in the current cold snap.

National Grid ESO issued a so-called electricity margin notice (EMN) overnight and later ordered four out of five coal-fired plants, kept in reserve, to warm up in case they were needed.

It said of the EMN: “This is a routine tool that we use most winters, and means we are asking generators to make available any additional generation capacity they may have,” the company said on Twitter.

An EMN does not mean electricity supply was at risk, it added.

Separately, start-up instructions were issued to generators – two at Drax’s site in North Yorkshire and two at West Burton in Lincolnshire.

A general view of Drax Power Station on March 02, 2020 in Selby, England
Coal-fired power is retained only to be used if other sources fail to keep up with demand

While they will not necessarily be needed, they will be available if required.

National Grid ESO said the EMN was in place for the hours between 4.30pm and 8.30pm on Tuesday.

The notice reflects efforts to ensure the lights can be kept on as the northern half of Britain, in particular, is hit by snow and ice.

Temperatures overnight are forecast to fall as low as -15C in some areas of Scotland.

UK weather – latest: Forecasts warn of -15C as snow and ice to hit roads, trains and bus services

The power grid operator has used other tools in its box during the winter to help protect supply margins, such as triggering the Demand Flexibility Service, which sees household signatories paid to turn off high-usage appliances at peak times.

The UK has five coal-fired units that are ready to be switched on if required to help guarantee energy security.

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They have become increasingly important in the wake of Russia’s war in Ukraine which disrupted gas supplies to Europe and when the wind hasn’t blown.

While the UK shares power through so-called interconnectors with other countries, the gas squeeze has combined with other factors to damage the ability to import electricity when needed.

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These have included a large number of nuclear plant shutdowns in France, though capacity has improved as the winter months have progressed.

A relatively mild winter on the continent has also prevented countries from burning through their gas stocks.

An ESO spokesperson added: “The ESO has issued a notification that we will warm four of our five winter contingency coal units for potential use on Tuesday 7 March.

“This notification is not confirmation that the unit will be used on Tuesday, but that it will be available to the ESO, if required.

“The ESO as a prudent system operator has developed these tools for additional contingency to operate the network as normal. This does not mean electricity supplies are at risk.”

London and Surrey fires: Firefighters battle large blazes around the capital with one declared a ‘major incident’ | UK News

The fire service in Surrey has declared a major incident as crews battle an open fire – as crews in the capital fight three other large blazes, with people in west London told to keep their doors and windows shut.

In Surrey, a fire at Hankley Common near Farnham has drawn “several fire engines” to the area.

The fire service tweeted: “There is a great deal of smoke so please avoid the area, windows and doors should be closed if nearby and pets kept indoors.”

Read more: Dramatic satellite pictures show the impact of the heatwave as high temperatures hit country

Pictures online show plumes of smoke rising over the county, with people as far away as Guildford reporting they can see it.

The fire service later tweeted to ask those nearby to stop calling 999 to report smoke clouds, after receiving “an incredibly high” number of calls.

It added some local roads have been closed as a result of the incident.

Fire crews in London are also battling wildfires – with blazes in Rammey Marsh in Enfield, and Cranford Park in Hayes.

In Enfield, close to Epping Forest, London Fire Brigade (LFB) said around 100 firefighters were battling the grass fire, which had grown to the size of four football pitches.

The service urged people to help prevent further fires by not having barbeques and disposing of cigarettes correctly.

A fire in Hayes can be seen from across west London, with the LFB adding 70 firefighters are at the scene. It says people in the area should close doors and windows.

Big Jet TV, which live commentates on planes landing at Heathrow, says that visibility is reducing at the airport, sharing a picture of a smoke covered runway from the nearby fire at Hayes.

In east London near Newham, another fire is being dealt with in Thamesmead. LFB say 65 firefighters and a fire boat are at the scene close to London City Airport, with those nearby asked to keep doors and windows closed.

It comes after a swathe of wildfires in London and the surrounding area after last week’s record temperatures left the ground tinder-box dry.

The UK hit record temperatures on Tuesday, with Coningsby in Lincolnshire reaching a sweltering 40.3C (104.5F) – the first time since records began that the mercury has exceeded 40C in the country.

Some parts of the UK saw significant damage as a result of the extreme heat, such as house and wildfires, melting airport runways and expanding railway tracks.