Can rental industry provide power security for UK?

By Murray Pollok18 September 2013

A UK trade association has suggested that the power rental sector in the UK has an important role in providing essential back-up power in the event of major power blackouts.

Robert Beebee, chairman of The Association of Manufacturers and suppliers of Power Systems (AMPS), which represents suppliers of diesel generators, said the UK’s power infrastructure was becoming less secure, with a likely 'energy margin' of just 2% by 2015/16 because of the planned closures of large coal, oil and nuclear power stations.

Mr Beebee was responding to a documentary drama, Blackout, broadcast last week on the UK’s Channel 4 network, which was an account of the consequences of a cyber attack on the UK’s vulnerable power infrastructure.

“People don’t consider where their power comes from, and consider even less that they could mitigate the threat of a blackout with a relatively small generator,” he said, “The potentially lifesaving and business-saving role of a generator is something the public are largely unaware of. I think the number of diesel generating sets would explode if people understood the potential threat of blackouts due from 2015 onwards. “

Mr Beebee said contingency planning was needed; “Short-term, I think we need a strategy for allocating the available hire fleet to strategic locations in the event of an emergency: if suitable generators were identified now it would make the processes far smoother in the event.

“Longer term, with grid integration of diesel generators standardised, generators that provide backup to businesses - such as banks and data centres - should actually be subsidised with the proviso that power be available to the government in the event of a national emergency.“

He warned it was a mistake to assume that it would be easy to mobilise power rental fleets; “Mobilising and fuelling them in sufficient quantity to make a real difference would be impossible.”

The world’s largest power rental company is UK-based Aggreko. The company’s CEO, Rupert Soames, in a statement to IRN, said the company was well used to supplying back-up power in times of crisis; “We do so both in emerging or developed countries and recent examples include supplying temporary power to Japan following the Fukushima Tsunami, when the country lost a large amounts of its generating capacity, and on a smaller scale following Hurricane Sandy, when we supported the grid in New York.

“Aggreko has 9.5 GW of mobile power capacity globally, which is the equivalent of around 10% the UK’s generating capacity, so we would be well placed to respond to our customers if they need us.”

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