National Grid asks energy industry for more generation
National Grid has issued a notice to the energy industry asking for more generation to be brought on to the system following "multiple plant breakdowns".
The power firm said the move was not an indication that there was an immediate risk of blackouts, b ut it is the first time such a notice has been issued for three years.
An additional 500 megawatts is being requested for later today - equivalent to the power surge experienced at half time during a big sports event.
A statement said: "National Grid has issued a notice to the industry today asking for more generation to be brought on to the system.
"This is part of our standard toolkit for balancing supply and demand and is not an indication there is an immediate risk of disruption to supply or blackouts. It indicates that we would like our power held in reserve to be higher.
"This Notification of Inadequate System Margin (NISM) is a result of multiple plant breakdowns. An additional 500 MWs is being requested for between 16.30 and 18.30 this evening."
Brian Strutton, national officer of the GMB union, said: " It is less than a month ago since we warned that the Government and National Grid were far too complacent about the risks of widespread power blackouts.
"There can be eight to 10 days per month when there is not a lot of output from wind capacity.
"We now have the bonkers position where National Grid is using consumers' money to pay firms to stop work in order to avoid blackouts."
National Grid said later that more generating had been obtained.
A statement said: "Earlier today we issued a Notification of Inadequate System Margin (NISM), because of multiple plant failures. The market duly responded to this signal.
"More generation came forward and about 40MW of Demand Side Balancing Reserve was ordered so the NISM has been withdrawn.
"This is one of the routine tools that we use to indicate to the market that we would like more generation to come forward for the evening peak demand period.
"The issuing of a NISM does not mean we were at risk of blackouts. It means that we needed the safety cushion of power in reserve to be higher."
Shadow energy secretary Lisa Nandy said: "Tonight National Grid has begun using emergency measures to prevent blackouts.
"The chopping and changing of energy policy under this Government is creating an energy security crisis. It is preventing investment we now urgently need to keep the lights on and it could cause household bills to rise.
"David Cameron should step in and end the policy vacuum to get new power stations built as quickly as possible."