March 18, 2020 / 3:57 PM / 13 days ago

UK's National Grid says it can keep the lights on during coronavirus crisis

Migrating starlings fly at dusk past electricity pylons silhouetted by the sunset of a clear autumn evening in the Kent countryside, in Graveney, Britain, October 26, 2015. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s National Grid has plans in place to keep the lights on throughout the coronavirus outbreak as more people than usual remain at home, it said on Wednesday.

“We have well-developed procedures in place to manage the effects of a pandemic and have analysed anticipated effects on electricity supply and demand of mass self-isolation of the UK’s workforce,” the grid operator said.

On Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson shut down social life in Britain and ordered the most vulnerable to isolate for 12 weeks, ramping up the battle against a coronavirus outbreak just as it accelerates towards it peak.

People should avoid pubs, clubs, restaurants, cinemas and theatres, the government said, though Johnson stopped short of ordering them to close. People should also avoid unnecessary travel and work from home where possible.

Demand across the country is expected to reduce due to a drop in energy use from industrial consumers, which is likely to be greater than the increase in domestic demand as people stay at home, National Grid said.

“Please continue to use energy as you usually would …boil that kettle, tune in to your favourite TV show and enjoy a hot shower,” National Grid electricity system operator director Fintan Slye said in a statement.

Phil Hart, director of energy and power at Cranfield University, said offices closing will reduce power use significantly, as air conditioning, lighting and support systems are switched off.

“Avoidance and reduction of these electrical loads coupled with reduced fuel use for commuting should have a positive impact on the environment, with no meaningful negative impacts on our national electrical infrastructure,” he added.

On Tuesday EDF Energy, which operates the 15 nuclear reactors in Britain, said it can maintain operations at its nuclear power plants in Britain during the coronavirus outbreak, even with minimal staffing.

Reporting by Nina Chestney; Editing by David Goodman and Jan Harvey

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