The UK government is planning to pay thousands to businesses for switching off their power in times of need, in a bid to avoid mass blackouts in the winter months.

Britain’s energy secretary, Ed Davey, said:

Both the new demand and supply balancing services will be used only as a last resort and are a safety net to protect households in difficult circumstances, such as a hard winter or very high surges in demand. It is entirely voluntary. Nobody will get cut off. No economic activity will be curtailed. The lights are going to stay on.

Last year, energy regulator Ofgem said that the risk of blackouts could be as high as 25% unless consumers cut demands.

Prime Minister, David Cameron, said:

I held a meeting around the cabinet table with Ofgem, National Grid and the leading players and sought assurances: is there anything we need to make sure there is no realistic prospect of this happening? The information I have is: now we have to put in place the Energy Act, now we have the capacity mechanism, and now crucially we have the ability to use short-term mechanisms – taking plants out of mothball if necessary, bringing them back online – there’s no danger of that happening.

Cameron also added that keeping lights on was “the most important energy policy objective.”

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