Blackouts Ahead ...

The drain on the electricity supply during the record high temperatures experienced in July caused the National Grid to issue two power warnings within a week.

The warnings came as parts of central London were left without power for a second day after a series of network failures.

EDF Energy, which supplies the affected areas, said that although the failures were not caused by the weather itself, the system had experienced unusual demand for air conditioning and extra refrigeration.

The gap between summer and winter usage is large, but narrowing.

A spokesman for National Grid said "last week we informed the market that we needed them to generate more electricity or use less because we are getting close to our safety margin, which we do not disclose".

Demand on the hottest July day had been 44,000 megawatts. This compares to 42,000 megawatts last year, when the average temperature was 64F.

Peak demand in winter is 62,000 - 65,000 megawatts.

During this month's heatwave, emergency oil-fired power stations in Kent and Hampshire were fired up even though the energy they produce is very expensive - 45p per kWh. The average householder pays 14p.

The increased costs will be passed on to consumers.

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