EDF will be paid between £55 million and £73 million for halving power output from Britain’s biggest nuclear reactor this summer under an agreement to prevent blackouts.

National Grid, the company with the task of keeping Britain’s lights on, said that it had asked the French energy group to continue to limit generation from Sizewell B in Suffolk until late September. That is the maximum period negotiated in a contract that The Times revealed in May had been agreed to help to prevent the network being overwhelmed by excess power during the pandemic.

Electricity demand dropped by as much as a fifth at the height of the lock-down and, although it is returning to normal levels, National Grid said that it was lower than expected and that there was a risk of a second wave that could suppress demand again. Keeping Sizewell operating at half-output enabled it to “prepare for such an event at minimal cost”.

National Grid needed to reduce output from Sizewell so that it could free space on the network to run more flexible types of power plants needed to help to balance supply and demand. It was also concerned that the network could not cope if Sizewell, the biggest single generating unit in Britain, were to fail while operating at full capacity.

Juliet Davenport, of Good Energy, a renewable energy supplier, claimed that the contract was “evidence that inflexible, expensive nuclear power is not fit for the clean energy system we need”.


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