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Managing the UK's electricity system - can we keep the lights on?


The House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee has today launched an inquiry into the resilience of the UK's electricity system, asking how science and technology can help with future needs.

The Committee will investigate whether there will be enough electricity to meet demand as the UK reaches a critical pinch point over the two coming winters. The Committee will look at whether Government policies will be effective in ‘keeping the lights on' in the short term and through to 2030.

The inquiry will ask how resilient the UK's electricity generation, transmission and distribution infrastructure is to sudden, unexpected events such as severe weather, power station failure or cyber-attack. 

It will ask how resilience will be affected in the medium term as electricity generation is decarbonised and becomes more distributed. In addition, it will examine the impact of new demands such as electric vehicles and smart appliances giving consumers more control over their electricity use. The Committee will look at the role of science and technology in ensuring a resilient electricity system and ask how well the UK is placed to exploit new technologies.

Chair of the Committee, Lord Selborne, said:

“An investigation into the resilience of the UK's electricity infrastructure is a timely one, given that we are set to see our safety cushion between demand and supply drop to particularly low levels over the next two winters. 

We want to take a look at how science and technology can best be used to make sure there is always a robust, yet agile, framework for electricity supply which will enable us to keep the lights on.

Obviously there will be unknowns, especially in the long-term, surrounding intermittent supplies, patterns of demand, and which technologies take off and which flounder. However, with the contribution of appropriate and qualified evidence we hope to shed some much needed light on the UK's prospects for short and medium term electricity supply. We would very much welcome contributions.”

The Committee is inviting written evidence on the issue - to be received by 19 September 2014. Click here for more details.

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