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Durham University

Durham Energy Institute


Will the lights really go out – a public debate on one of the UK’s big challenges

(3 March 2014)

On Thursday 6 March, a panel of experts will meet at Durham University to debate whether the UK is facing widespread blackouts in the next decade.

The event, a collaboration between Durham’s Energy Institute (DEI) and DONG Energy will be open to the public who will be able to ask questions and debate the issues with the panel. 

The fear we might be facing an increased risk of blackouts in the UK began hitting the headlines last year with various studies and energy experts indicating an uncomfortable squeeze in energy reserves. This would have dramatic consequences for the lives of everyone in the UK. Although the government, National Grid and Ofgem are said to be taking coordinated action to address challenges to security of supply there are fears that this will not be enough.

This debate is an opportunity to hear directly from the experts about what the true risks of blackouts are, what solutions we have available to avoid this future and what are the likely impacts on communities and businesses in the UK. It’s also a chance for members of the public to have their say and have their questions and comments answered.

  • Is the current mix of energy sources in the UK right?
  • Will the shift towards lower carbon sources bring lower energy security?
  • What is the Government doing to prevent the lights going out?
  • How much will keeping the lights on impact on consumer bills?
  • Will the electricity market cope with ever-increasing electricity demand?

Members of the public are invited to submit their questions for the panel through the event registration page or via twitter on @DONGEnergyUK. The event will be using the hashtag: #DurhamEnergyDebate 

The event will be chaired by Chris Jackson from the BBC's "Inside-out North East" programme and the panellists are:

Jenny Saunders – National Energy Action, Chief Executive

Benj Sykes – DONG Energy UK Wind Power

Janusz Bialek – DONG Energy Professor of Renewable Energy, Durham Energy Institute

Professor Janusz Bialek said:

"Recent studies have shown that the UK may face problems with security of supply over the next few years. Life as we know stops without electricity so any blackouts would have dramatic consequences for households, the economy and politics. Ensuring security of supply is a fascinating topic that requires understanding of electricity markets, renewables, UK and EU politics and, last but not least, understanding of how power systems operate. Solutions are available, however they will require strong politicians who listen to experts"

Jenny Saunders said:

“I am very much looking forward to joining the public debate at Durham. The issue of energy security and the reliability of our electricity system is something which affects every one of us in the UK and is something we have taken for granted. It is very important we find the right mix of energy sources to ensure that electricity is available when we need it, while also ensuring that we do not condemn vulnerable groups to increasing fuel poverty and energy remains affordable for all. To encourage consumers to engage with these issues, it is essential that they discuss them directly with Energy experts and are given the opportunity to contribute to the UK energy debate.”

Benj Sykes said:

“The lights can and will stay on in the UK as long as we keep getting the signals we need to invest in building new generation. For us, that means offshore wind but also traditional fuels such as oil and gas to ensure there is no gap as we move to lower carbon technologies. I’m looking forward to the debate and to hearing what others have to say on what they think the right mix is for the UK’s energy future.”

Event details

The debate will take place at the Calman Learning Centre, Durham University, Lower Mountjoy, DH1 3LE on Thursday, 6 March, 2014, 7.00pm to 8.15pm.

This event is FREE, but registration is essential. To reserve your place, please register at Eventbrite.