The 'Beast from the East' may teach BEIS a lesson

5th Mar 2018


Spring is here, is it not? Well not exactly. The cold spell was prolonged and caused major disruption. People were glad to get home and get warm in their gas-centrally heated homes.

The volumes of gas shipped over the past week have been unseasonably high. It would be good to get the Gas Distribution Networks ,GDNs, to tell us exactly how much and also what the peak gas demand was last week because this is critical to the whole argument about the future role of gas.

Policymakers by and large do not understand the energy world. Influencers in the media, typically even less. One of the most unreported aspects of energy policy is that of meeting peak demands. The gas industry has always gone about this task quietly, no fuss made, just getting on with the job. In doing so, through good planning and engineering, they have created a system that meets the events of last week – peak heat demand for a prolonged period.

The storage capability of the network, the flexibility to respond, the heating appliances that can quickly generate warmth – all make weather like last week more bearable for consumers.

The government should take note. The gas network delivered.

To reinforce my point, one GDN was dealing with water ingress into the grid. Supplies of back-up electric heating appliances were provided for those cut-off gas. But I noticed the GDN had to ask consumers not to use them unless absolutely necessary as the electric network couldn’t cope with the surge in demand.

It frankly is time for the government to accept this reality. If it wants to facilitate a switch to all-electric heating, to appease the fundamentalists, then they have got to upgrade the electricity network massively first. Then provide the extra generating capacity (low carbon of course) and then give that capacity flexibility to respond to demand. If they want to spend over £300 billion doing this, then frankly they are mugs.

They have the solution, tried and tested in battle last week, seeing off the Beast from the East. Decarbonise the gas in the gas network but keep, and value the world’s leading piece of gas infrastructure.

 Best wishes

Mike Foster, CE