As has been widely reported, a major fire broke out at Didcot B power station last night. Fortunately nobody was hurt in the blaze, but the incident has resulted in the loss of another 700 MW of generating capacity from the national grid for an unknown period. Coming after the fires at Ironbridge and Ferrybridge power stations (in February and July respectively), and the closure of two of EDF’s nuclear plants in August; this makes a total loss to the grid of 4.3 GW (or about 7% of the total) through unplanned outages this year.
The UK Government maintains that this poses no threat to the continuity of electricity supplies over the winter months but, whilst these specific incidents may not directly threaten supplies, there is clearly no room for complacency. Who would have predicted that we would lose five generating units like this in a year, and if five is possible how many could we plausibly lose in a twelve-month period? All this is set against a backdrop of steadily declining margins between generating capacity and demand.
Without blowing things out of proportion, the incident is a timely reminder of the need to capture disruption to electrical supplies as a key risk to your business. It is important to estimate as accurately as you can the specific impact of such disruption to your business in order to take the appropriate mitigating actions, be that simply upgrading the UPS on some of your key equipment; paying for a generator-on-call service; or installing an emergency generator on your site.