The supply of energy to the UK is becoming an ever more urgent topic. The government must choose the right mix of energy sources, including renewable, fossil fuels and nuclear. Getting the power supply right on site is a microcosm of these decisions.
Bridging the energy gap
The UK government is facing increasingly difficult decisions as it tries to ensure a dependable supply of energy to the national grid. Our domestic supplies of natural gas are running short and already we are importing gas from abroad. That is not a cheap option and being dependent on foreign powers for our energy does not guarantee security of supply. There remain large deposits of coal under the country, but most of it is becoming uneconomical to extract and environmentally unacceptable to burn. North Sea oil reserves are also declining. Nuclear power is controversial. We still have not worked out how to safely dispose of the waste and costs are rising. As the government considers building new nuclear power stations to bridge the looming energy gap, it seems in any case that we no longer have the expertise and would have to use perhaps French firms to build these power stations. Renewables produce around 10% of our needs, but increasing that figure is difficult and, so far, expensive.
The microcosm of generators
Ensuring continuity of supply for businesses and remote supply on building sites presents similar issues. It is big business, as can be seen from the size of the industry for generator hire in the UK and there are a number of factors to consider. Firstly, there is the sheer scale of power required. Often, no one power source, or generator, is able to cope and it is therefore vital that the company you choose for your generators can synch multiple generators to deliver multi-megawatt power when required. Security of supply is another issue, just like for our national grid. You have to be sure that your generator company has the right inventory of generators to supply whatever range of power options you need on site.
You might be surprised to learn that generator hire in the UK also has environmental concerns. Some older and less efficient units are pretty noisy and that can result in complaints from neighbours; especially in residential locations and where power is required 24/7, meaning that the generators are running at unsociable hours. Older models may also create a lot of CO2 and other emissions from their exhausts, a factor that is becoming less environmentally acceptable. The generator industry is like the national energy strategy in other ways too. You must have a back-up plan in case of failure and that means designing in a certain amount of redundancy into your generator strategy. It also means ensuring that your generator company has an excellent emergency response, with 24 hour call out and a vehicle fleet to get your replacement generators to your location quickly. Working in the generator industry then is very much like working on national energy policy. We must always get it right and think ahead. Otherwise the lights will go off.
John Ratcliffe is a power consultant who often advises on emergency generator hire UK. He writes widely on energy related topics