The UK ran out of power as Belgium keeps the lights on

The UK runs out of power as Belgium keeps the lights on

The UK ran out of power over the weekend due to global demand, soaring wholesale prices and the hotter weather.

The Telegraph said on Monday, July 25 that an emergency appeal had to be made to Belgium as surging prices played havoc with the electricity market ahead of a “looming winter crisis.”  

By all accounts, the ESO (Electricity System Operator) failed to secure sufficient supplies in the normal market resulting in the SOS for help from Belgium. Fortunately, Belgium was able to oblige by sending more down the Nemo cable that runs between the two countries.

According to the report, the ESO paid an all-time high of £9,724 per MWh to import power on Wednesday as countries around Europe scramble for energy supplies.

The heatwave on Monday and Tuesday last week put the system under severe strain, which experts said did not bode well for winter particularly given repeated threats from Russia that it will cut off supplies.

In a perfect storm the record temperatures last week saw the efficiency of solar panels reduced, disruption to generators and power lines accompanied by a drop in the wind.

The ESO said that despite some warnings that demand nearly outstripped supply, it was confident that it has sufficient supplies to cope. The organisation continued by saying that it was in the advanced planning stage to make sure that the country did not run short during winter when typically demand rises.

The UK sources its energy from a number of areas including nuclear plants, wind, solar and biomass. But it is also heavily reliant on gas for both heating and electricity generation and that area is of most concern.

Additional supplies are bought from Europe through a growing network of cables capable of supplying more than 10 per cent of UK demand.

Issues in France which has lost half of its nuclear plants to maintenance issues are adding to the problem, as is the loss of hydroelectric power brought about by the low rainfall across the continent.

That has led to the UK keeping coal-fired plants open for longer particularly given concerns that the additional power usually sourced from France over the winter, may not be available this year.

The ESO explained that the reason for the UK ran out of power is that: “We were bidding in a tight market and market prices were high that day because Europe also wanted the energy. We managed the system and kept the electricity flowing to the South East.

“Due to a combination of factors including high exports, low wind, planned plant maintenance outages, higher than usual demand and a small reduction in gas generation.

 “Capacity market notices are automated and do not take into account all the factors which our engineers are working on. Based on our control room’s assessments and submitted data, we were confident that electricity margins were sufficient.”

The current problems are an eye opener for many as the UK ran out of power. Few outside the industry knew of the UK’s reliance on the continent for energy.

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Written by

Peter McLaren-Kennedy

Originally from South Africa, Peter is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at