Gas keeping us safe...and cool?!

Posted on: 21/06/2017

I’m sure everyone has been taking advantage of the glorious weather in the last few days! I thought I would write a short blog about how the boiling hot weather has demonstrated the essential role gas and gas networks play in an integrated energy system.

Traditionally, as the temperature increases, demand for gas falls – with boilers and central heating being turned off. In south Wales we’ve had significant industrial users of gas – steelworks and oil refineries, but over the last decade these have either closed or significantly reduced their rates of production – and therefore gas use.

So this weekend for example, demand for gas from domestic and industrial users was low – but what was significant was the amount of gas being used by gas fired power stations, working hard to keep lights, fridges and air conditioners on. In fact, on Sunday, a single power station in south Wales used more gas than domestic users in north Wales and the south west of England added together!

A perfect example of the essential role gas and gas networks play in our energy system. In the winter gas networks are flexible and have enough capacity to heat homes and businesses even in the coldest of winters, as well as being used to generate electricity to keep the lights on. In the summer, the network serves as a virtual energy battery, storing gas to be used to generate electricity when required to meet spikes in electricity demand.

While we often focus on meeting demand during the winter, because of the increasing number of gas fired power stations and the more significant role they play in meeting electricity needs (as I write this they are generating 19GW (49%) of electricity required) meeting demand in summer is fast becoming just as important for us – it just so happens to be a different type of demand!

Bethan Winter

Bethan Winter is Wales & West Utilities System Operations Manager.