Emergency measures will be introduced to prevent the lights going out this winter.
Offices and factories will be offered compensation to undergo 1970s-style energy rationing and shut down for up to four hours a day to prevent households being plunged into darkness.
In addition, owners of old power stations will be asked to switch them back on to meet the country’s demands.
National Grid had not planned to use this option until next winter. But yesterday it revealed a series of fires and setbacks had knocked some of the UK’s biggest generators out of service. Two nuclear power plants are also offline, and are unlikely to be running in time for the start of the colder weather.
‘The Government has been crossing its fingers and hoping that it’s all fine. It’s blindingly obvious that if you have a tight market then you will be more vulnerable to shocks.’
An Ofgem spokesman said: ‘We are confident that National Grid has the right levers to keep the lights on.
‘However, no electricity system anywhere in the world can give a 100 per cent guarantee that the lights will stay on.’
That didn’t used to be an impossible task for industrialized countries.
Despite the conceit that mankind is somehow separate (and above) the natural world, our existence is inextricably linked to a network of systems that is buckling under an onslaught of destruction caused by resource extraction and pollution. This destruction is being driven by man-made social systems that demand never-ending growth on a finite planet.
Unless we dismantle these social systems and replace them with ones that can work with natural systems, not against them, we cannot hope to change the course we are on. Dreams of fancy technofixes and new energy sources are simply self-justifications for continuing down this path of self-destruction. We are exploiting pretty much the whole world and there are no significant new frontiers left to exploit. Trapped inside this closed system we will be forced to confront the consequences of our actions one way or another.