Opinion: 'Cutting back on energy usage is just one more example of 'Broken Britain'

Opinion: 'Cutting back on energy usage is just one more example of 'Broken Britain' <i>(Image: Pexels)</i>
Opinion: 'Cutting back on energy usage is just one more example of 'Broken Britain' (Image: Pexels)

I like to think I am a good citizen so when my energy supplier asked me if I wanted to take part in the so-called Demand Flexibility Service, I agreed.

In case you missed it, the scheme has been designed as part of a plan to avoid blackouts across the UK and aims to ensure the National Grid can maintain a steady supply of electricity at times of peak demand over the winter.

So my energy supplier asked us to cut back on usage for an hour between 5pm and 6pm on Monday last week and between 5pm and 6.30pm on Tuesday.

We were given our own personal energy reduction target and the promise that money would be discounted from our energy bill if we hit the target.

Plans were made. We dug out our battery-operated camping lights, charged up our tablets nice and early and made sure our evening meal could be cooked quickly once the clock had ticked over and we could switch everything back on.

Prior to the big shut-down, I went round the house and unplugged everything that could be unplugged. We warmed the house to an acceptable level and dug out our thermals.

As the clock ticked over to 5pm, with absolutely everything that could be switched off switched off, we settled down to watch Pointless on an iPad to the glow of a battery-powered light.

It was bit different and a little like camping out in our front room. In a way, it was a bit of fun and I had a certain sense of satisfaction from knowing I was doing my bit to help out.

For the record, we hit our energy-reduction targets on both days and were rewarded with discounts totalling the grand sum of little more than £2, but to be honest, the money was never the point.

And the energy industry itself was put on standby. It is thought that coal-fired power stations were instructed to start warming up.

Three coal plants had been set for retirement this year but their lives were extended through this winter in a bid to bolster Britain’s energy security during the crisis caused by the war in Ukraine and problems with nuclear power stations in France.

So everything’s in hand, I thought. And then I started to come at the problem from a different direction.

This is the 21st century, we live in one of the richest countries on earth and we are being asked to eke out our energy usage as though we were a Third World country. Why?

As I mentioned earlier, some of our electricity, particularly at times of peak demand, comes from nuclear power stations in France, many of which have been powered down for repairs and maintenance and that has added to the problems.

And much of the electricity generated in the UK is from gas-fired power stations and we just don’t have enough gas storage facilities to meet demand, although to be fair, Centrica has increased the UK’s storage capacity by 50 per cent with the reopening of the Rough gas storage facility in the southern North Sea.

But a bit of context is need here. According to Centrica, the work done to reopen Rough means it is operating at around just 20 per cent of its previous capacity which is far less total storage than our European neighbours maintain.

Sadly, this looks like just one more example of 'Broken Britain' where nothing works quite as it should and where years of austerity and under-investment are taking their toll.

In any event, being the good citizen that I am, the next time I’m asked to take part in a Demand Flexibility Service energy reduction, I will do. But perhaps not quite as willingly or happily as I did the first couple of times.

On another topic, it was interesting to see another manifestation of the new national disease known as ‘Long Johnson’ which Lord Patten, a former Tory Party chairman and former BBC chairman described as “the corrupting and debilitating impact of [Boris] Johnson’s premiership on British politics and government.

Political commentator Paul Waugh said 'Long Johnson' was now in the bloodstream of the Tory Party and is 'a debilitating condition that led [the Conservative Party] to lose its sense of taste, decency and direction'.

Very much looks like former Chancellor and Tory Party chairman Nadhim Zahawi caught a particularly nasty dose. What a pity he couldn’t find a vaccine for that particular illness.