20 Oct 2014

Government says ‘lights won’t go out’ after Didcot blaze

Half of Didcot power station will remain indefinitely out of action after a major fire broke out. The government says “the lights will not go out” but analysts voice electricity price fears.

The owners of the plant, RWE npower said that half of the massive plant that supplies a million homes will remain non-operational indefinitely and that the whole of the plant will not be operating at capacity for a number of weeks.

“It is too early to give any definitive estimate of how long this will be,” a company spokesperson said.

“Power stations come on and off the grid quite a lot and we’re very sustainable, we can carry on.”

A passerby took a video and photos from her phone showing the blaze (see above).

The Department of Energy & Climate Change said that the fire will not cause blackouts over winter.

A spokesperson said: “The lights will not go out this winter. Up and down the country there are power stations on standby that can start pumping out power when needed and the Government has given National Grid the extra powers it needs to ensure there is enough electricity to keep the lights.”

Video: Didcot power station devastation seen on Monday as firefighters survey the scene

An estimated 100 firefighters brought it under control, but one of the cooling towers burnt down.

Energy analyst Peter Atherton, Liberum Capital, said that it could result in more expensive electricity and issues with supply.

“The loss of this plant would not normally be a cause for concern. But UK energy policy has managed to engineer historically low reserve margins as we head into winter.”

“Unfortunately, the UK has now seen three unexpected events before the clock change. Another one or two could cause a serious security of supply event, and a probable surge in wholesale prices.”

“Emergency services are still on site but the fire is under control,” said a spokeswoman for RWE NPower, the company which operates the station. No-one was injured in the blaze.

Britain’s Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Ed Davey, said in a statement: “I’ve been reassured by National Grid that there is no risk to electricity supplies.”

According to RWE’s website, one 720-MW unit at the site (Didcot B5), has been taken offline. The other unit, Didcot B6, appears to still be in service.