National Grid, Other Utilities Grapple with Fallout from Brexit Vote

The United Kingdom’s vote to exit the European Union has sent shockwaves through the islands and beyond.

Some hands were raised in exultation and others in wringing, after nearly 52 percent of Brits opted to leave the EU after 20-plus years.

Prime Minister David Cameron is stepping down after the stunning vote, while trade deals and policies will have to redone over the several years needed to complete the exit strategy.

Power utilities also have important stakes in the Brexit fallout. Some involved meeting customer demand raised by the activity, and others mull over projects on the other side of the English Channel.

National Grid, which has operations both in Britain and in the eastern U.S., kept close tabs on the demand the curve during Thursday’s vote.

The utility’s Twitter feed showed a graphic anticipating the curve as Brits tuned in to follow the results.

A London Financial Times article earlier focused on how National Grid would deal with a spike in electricity demand that was the equivalent to an “extra Birmingham.” The British grid expected an additional 1,200 MW of demand during Brexit coverage. The previous largest night-time surge was during an opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics in London.

“By one o’clock in the morning, this will possibly be the biggest night-time jump we have ever seen. It is certainly going to make our lives more interesting,” Jeremy Caplin, energy forecasting manager at National Grid, told the Financial Times. “We usually see a spike in demand at general elections — last year we saw 900 MW,” he said. “But this is a once-in-a-generation event.”

National Grid covers much of Great Britain and the northeastern U.S. The American unit delivers electricity to about 3.4 million customers in Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island.

Some are worried about the long-term consequences of turning inward, such as immigration policies and previously announced projects. On the electricity front, French utility EDF and China General Nuclear Power Corp. are partners in a projected and slow-moving $26 billion nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point.

French President Francois Hollande told several news outlets he was still in favor of going forward with Hinkley Point construction despite the British vote against the EU. Economic self-interest at least plays some role in Hollande’s affirmation, according to reports.

“It’s very important to understand that we need a high-performance, highly secure nuclear industry in France, and that we cannot let others take over terrain, including on exports, that has been French up to now,” he was quoted as telling Europe 1 radio.

EDF CEO Jean-Bernard Levy also expressed support for moving Hinkley Point forward despite several delays and the Brexit vote. The British are maintaining their goal of de-carbonizing their energy output, he noted.

“Therefore, there are no consequences from this vote today,” Levy was quoted by Reuters.

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