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OFGEM Authorise Brown Outs

December 20, 2022

By Paul Homewood


h/t idau


In other words, brown outs!



Ofgem has approved the national rollout of a new energy system developed by the network operator, Electricity North West (ENW), which the regulator precited could save consumers in Britain up to £1 billion.

The flexibility system, called CLASS (Customer Load Active System Services), is a voltage control solution designed to help National Grid ESO manage Britain’s power network by balancing spikes in energy demand and dips in supply.

It includes the installation of voltage controllers at substations, which allow the network operator to offer balancing operations to the ESO by making small reductions to voltage.

According to ENW, this can be done through imperceptible reductions to the amount of power being used by “everything from streetlights to industry to everyday household devices.”

Described as the “first-of-a-kind”, the system already experienced success after its deployment in the North West more than two years ago, which allowed locals to benefit from approximately £7.3 million off their electricity bills as a result.

“Our updated assessment suggests that the net economic benefit is likely to be significant. Prohibiting CLASS would narrow the set of choices available to the ESO and mean consumers faced higher electricity bills than they might otherwise do” said Ofgem in its report, approving the system.


None of this would have been necessary if we were not shutting down so much of our firm capacity.

But don’t be fooled by promises of lower bills. What they are saying is that our bills would be going up even more otherwise, thanks to intermittent renewables:


And also beware the claims of £1 billion saving. This is not an annual saving, as you might expect. The saving for the North West was estimated at £300 million over 25 years. In other words, a pittance.


  1. John Palmer permalink
    December 20, 2022 7:13 pm

    ‘Fiddling, Rome and burning’ spring to mind….

  2. GeoffB permalink
    December 20, 2022 7:35 pm

    I did read up on this last week, its just the old tappable transformers with a more modern control system, probably driven by an algorithm! Saving money by reducing voltage is hardly news.

    • cookers52 permalink
      December 22, 2022 5:59 am

      That’s what I thought, this is just on load tap changing applied to Network transformers.
      From memory, this used to be only allowed at primary sub station transformers due to safety and operational concerns if the control system went wrong.
      In the good old days it wasn’t economic as the equipment was costly and needed maintenance.

  3. December 20, 2022 7:39 pm

    We are all paying through the nose for an electricity system ruined by successive governments over the last 30years.reducing the voltage means we will be using less electricity in some appliances, so there will be no saving. We pay for what we use.

    • December 21, 2022 10:02 am

      Kettles will use MORE electricity, they will take longer to boil, hence there will be more heat loss.

      • catweazle666 permalink
        December 21, 2022 4:53 pm

        Since we acquired a hot water dispenser the kettle has become practically redundant, most of the hot water used in the kitchen is hot drinks and such a device heats only the required amount of water, it has made a noticeable difference to electricity bill.


  4. William Morgan permalink
    December 20, 2022 8:03 pm

    1960s revisited. I remember my mother complaining, during the Sunday roast preparation, that her electric oven temperature was reduced, and our lunch would be delayed. Then, I believe, the Grid could get away with pushing out substandard voltage. The 60’s weather was also colder than we’ve experienced in recent decades, but that’s going to swing back.

    • December 26, 2022 10:33 am

      yes the grid could get away with pushing out substandard voltage for 2 reasons:

      The war had meant we virtually stopped building new generating capacity while electricity demand increased particularly peak demand due to electric fires so people understood this would take some time to fix by building new power stations and upgrading the transmissions system and a brownout was better than a power cut.

      As much of the peaky load was resistive – electric fires,maybe immersion heaters, cookers & incandescent light bulbs (i.e the term brownout) a voltage reduction would have reduce demand (so avoided load shedding if there was insufficient supply).

      But in 2022 we (1) have had decades to plan & build sufficient generating capacity (especially if we are deliberately increasing demand by pushing electric cars & heat pumps) or just provide like for like replacement before you demolish power stations. A 7 year old could understand that electricity has to be generated in real time, peak demand happens after dark (so solar pv is unhelpful), that cold weather tend to be calm (so little wind) but increase demand due to electric space heating. As well as highlight at best negligence but also corruption and conflicts of interest.

      (2) the load profile has changed due to Switched-mode power supply which are designed to convert 100v-250v 50 or 60 hz to a desired DC output so it will take more current if the voltage is reduced & don’t forget this would include the lighting load now with LEDs. We also have heat pumps which are motors so in theory would be an inductive Load but many have inverters to allow a 3 phase AC motors on 1 phase supply & control the speed by changing the frequency.

  5. Ray Sanders permalink
    December 20, 2022 8:40 pm

    FFS how gullible do these people think the public are? AMPS X VOLTS = WATTS (power). Reduce the voltage and you reduce the power. Mains is actually 230V(+10/-6%) so can vary anywhere between 253V and 216V.
    If you start allowing DNOs to bugger about with voltage at their end by the time it gets to many consumers it is likely to be outside service parameters.
    I currently (pun intended) have UK Power Networks fitting a voltage monitor on my home service for a months period as the power quality is so poor in my area of rural Kent it is causing damage to equipment.
    Back to the future?

    • John Hultquist permalink
      December 20, 2022 8:52 pm

      But in 2084 the grandkid’s temperature will be only 0.00004 warmer and not 0.00005 warmer. {“It was so good of gramps to suffer for us.”}

    • Will Davis permalink
      December 20, 2022 8:58 pm

      Yes Ray, spot on. The wonderful heat pumps will enjoy a voltage reduction! Mess about with the supply voltage at your peril. Our equipment is designed to work with within VIR limits.

    • catweazle666 permalink
      December 20, 2022 9:41 pm

      As I recollect, electric motors don’t like being run below their specified voltage, they tend to burn out more often.

      • December 21, 2022 12:28 pm

        Older microwave ovens have a tendency to blow fuses when voltage drops occur. The in-line fuses blew in our 20 year old microwave a few years ago.

        The unit, which we had repaired for 70 bucks, had charred AND melted insulation on the wires leading to the fuses that the repair shop showed us. We plugged the unit it in just before we were going to use it from then on.

        It became a stranded asset when we moved from CA.

      • catweazle666 permalink
        December 21, 2022 6:53 pm

        Quite obvious really, the effect of undervoltage is non-linear.
        Watts = Volts times Amps.
        Heating effect of electric current = current squared times resistance.
        So for same wattage at reduced voltage, the current increase is effectively proportional to the square of the decrease in voltage.

      • December 21, 2022 8:16 pm

        We could all say a lot about this; but when it comes to the push OFCOM should properly do it’s job and tell the grid controllers to STOP closing down reliable generation facilities necessary to provide backup for all those dreadful Windturbines.

    • Dave Ward permalink
      December 20, 2022 9:50 pm

      “Reduce the voltage and you reduce the power”

      It’s not so simple these days, as virtually every bit of consumer equipment (and the latest LED streetlights) have “Switch Mode” power supplies. A glance at the rating plates of these will usually show a very wide range of operating voltages (and frequency). They do this by rectifying the AC input, and then converting the resultant DC to whatever is required using high frequency electronics. The beauty of this technology is that variations in input are not seen at the output, as would be the case with an older transformer based system. It also means that reducing the mains voltage won’t lead to a reduction in grid supplied current, as the PSU’s will draw MORE in order to maintain that stabilised output…

      • Ray Sanders permalink
        December 21, 2022 10:23 am

        Dave that is all very well and good for DC low power rated items but what about the rest? If standards do not matter then why have them in the first place? Lets all have 200V at 47Hz – won’t make any difference?!?

    • lordelate permalink
      December 20, 2022 11:33 pm

      I have had problems near sevenoaks as well. I have a single phase compressor that sometimes only just fires up.

      • Ray Sanders permalink
        December 21, 2022 10:31 am

        Hi lordelate, my wife has an industrial sewing machine (for her work) that runs on a 3hp electric motor. Some days that struggles as well. It was this that got me to have a sparky run some tests. The first he commented was yes the power out here is way below supply standards. He got a UK Power Networks engineer out to run supply tests who then authorised the monitoring. I will keep you posted on developments if you like because it came out in conversation with the engineer that this problem was becoming very common generally and was not a localised problem.

      • lordelate permalink
        December 21, 2022 8:58 pm

        Hello Ray
        yes please, the other week ukpn were going to install a pole mounted trans former. we all prepared for the power cut, they came along and installed a 40kv gen set got it all running. then decided that as it was all muddy where the pole was located they couldnt get the crame lorry with the new transformer on anywhere near it so gave up reconnected everything and said they would be back in the spring. great forwards thinking!

      • December 21, 2022 1:25 pm

        Very interesting Ray as I have a Colchester lathe that we converted to single phase that at my old house used to send the ammeter needle to the stop on start up. I also have a 3 phase universal milling machine that was run off a static inverter. Yet to connect these up since moving so will be interesting.

    • Ben Vorlich permalink
      December 21, 2022 7:05 am

      As per my grandson’s homework last night Watt is a Joule per second, 4.18 Joules of heat energy are required to raise the temperature of 1g of water by 1°K.
      Therefore any heating of anything using electricity will take longer meaning KWh will remain the about same, or even increase, to boil a litre of water for your morning cup of tea.

      • Phil O'Sophical permalink
        December 21, 2022 11:44 am

        You sure like a large cup of tea, Ben.

      • lordelate permalink
        December 21, 2022 9:07 pm

        Once the Gov have destroyed the economy and people cant earn a wage then were do we go?

      • Ben Vorlich permalink
        December 21, 2022 10:01 pm

        A kilogram of water is a litre, 3 mugs with breakfast just righg to start the day

    • December 21, 2022 8:35 am


      it’s not quite so simple, electric motors do not like reduced voltage and take more current when the voltage falls. Perhaps they will take this into account for large industrial users and keep their voltage at nominal values?

      • Ray Sanders permalink
        December 21, 2022 10:20 am

        No it really is that simple. My wife’s industrial sewing machine struggles to work under low voltage. I get baffled by people thinking it is okay to degrade services in this way. If standards do not matter why have them in the first place?

      • catweazle666 permalink
        December 21, 2022 6:54 pm

        See my out-of-position post at 6:53 pm above.

  6. Carnot permalink
    December 20, 2022 10:38 pm

    And pig’s might fly.

  7. Gamecock permalink
    December 20, 2022 11:39 pm

    “Our updated assessment suggests that the net economic benefit is likely to be significant.”

    Customers want power. They are not seeking ‘economic benefit.’

    • catweazle666 permalink
      December 20, 2022 11:51 pm

      If I’m going to get less volts then I’ll want more amps.

    • kzbkzb permalink
      December 21, 2022 12:36 pm

      And who is this economic benefit for ?!
      Perhaps the experts on here can tell us if our meters will detect this lowering of the voltage and charge us less ?
      Or do they only measure the current ?

      • December 21, 2022 1:22 pm

        Meters measure the energy consumption which requires the input of both voltage and current.

  8. Martin Brumby permalink
    December 20, 2022 11:55 pm

    It has been noted a couple of times last week that gas pressure was down on the hob.
    (Length of flame at a particular setting and longer to boil a certain quantity of water.)
    Allow more time for cooking Christmas Dinner.

  9. Douglas Dragonfly permalink
    December 21, 2022 1:02 am


    • dave permalink
      December 21, 2022 10:24 am


      Seems a little contradictory.

  10. Gamecock permalink
    December 21, 2022 12:09 pm

    50 years ago, we ran our factory off motor-generators. We used electricity to run motors with large flywheels that powered generators. No power blips. Good, clean, stable power.

    If you need clean power, you might have to go old-school.

    If you want power, you might have to generate your own. Government is working overtime to kill centralized power generation, with all its benefits.

    • Ray Sanders permalink
      December 21, 2022 12:51 pm

      Clearly syngas is the way to go!
      FEMA still have an online manual of how to build your own diy syngas generator.

      • Gamecock permalink
        December 21, 2022 2:25 pm

        De-evolution isn’t far away.

    • December 21, 2022 1:27 pm

      Get a steam engine and run your machines with belts off a central shaft. Why not? In every area we seem to be going backwards these days.

      • Gamecock permalink
        December 21, 2022 4:47 pm

        You won’t be able to make steam. Stick a paddle wheel in a river to drive your central shaft.

  11. Tim the Coder permalink
    December 21, 2022 1:16 pm

    What a daft and ignorant concept.
    Reducing the voltage only reduces the power with OHMIC loads, and almost nothing these days is an ohmic load.
    Lamps and appliances are constant-power switching converters. Motors are locked to the frequency, and either provide enough torque to work, or stall (and burn out).
    Even a kettle, or a heater isn’t ohmic when you consider the control e.g thermostat.
    Reduce the voltage, the heater puts out less power, so the thermostat ‘on’ time increases, result, on average, constant power.
    The kettle takes longer to boil, so more heat wasted to the kitchen.

    Of course, to make up for the lower voltage, the current increases (or the time for which a lower current flows).
    But delivery loss is I*I*R, so a 1% reduction in voltage means a 2% INCREASE in resistive losses.
    This is Ms Amber 15W Bulb thinking at its best.

    • catweazle666 permalink
      December 21, 2022 7:03 pm

      Quite so, Tim, then there is the matter of inductive loads on AC supply.

      Consider the case of back EMF with electric motors and the deleterious effect on both current and operating temperature when run at too low voltage.

      OFGEM seem to think that by reducing the voltage they will automatically reduce the power consumption proportionally, they really haven’t the first clue!

      • catweazle666 permalink
        December 21, 2022 7:04 pm

        Make that “inductive and reactive loads”!

      • Russ Wood permalink
        December 24, 2022 12:27 pm

        In South Africa, with its “load shedding” switching huge loads on and off as many as 4 times a day, the SWITCHING STATIONS are catching fire. the oil-filling of the circuit breakers becomes denatured, and only regular replacement of the oil (which isn’t happening) can stop it catching fire now and again.

  12. GeoffB permalink
    December 21, 2022 2:36 pm

    Do you think anyone at OFGEM actually knows anything about ac electricity? Based upon their track record I would conclude, unlikely!

    • Ray Sanders permalink
      December 21, 2022 4:04 pm

      Further to your comment about tappable transformers. They would have to be “on-load” (OLTC) taps in this case to run on “algorithms”. So this means they will be…..on load…..on line….on message….and as for the designers….on drugs!

  13. December 21, 2022 4:22 pm

    Reblogged this on Climate Collections.

  14. December 21, 2022 4:50 pm

    Bingo! Why didn’t I think about that? All we have to do is drop the voltage down to say 110 volts, which would more or less halve our bills 👍😀😂 (sark sign optional)

  15. Nicholas permalink
    December 21, 2022 10:32 pm

    What would Trading Standards make of a Pub Landlord Watering the beer? He would be offering the same amount of beer, but you would have to buy more of it to produce the same warming effect. We are paying for electricity of 230V, already 10v lower than historically. To deliberately make use of a lower tolerance of variability is to my mind mass fruad under the noses of ofgen.

  16. December 21, 2022 11:35 pm

    When the music’s over, turn out the lights… How original–especially with a government monopoly making the decisions!

  17. cookers52 permalink
    December 23, 2022 9:25 am

    Voltage controllers at sub stations? It appears that this might not be auto tap changing of the Network Transformers (this would be quite difficult unless you change the transformer).
    There are devices that can be connected to the transformer output that control voltage, and these are being sold by strong marketing to non technical decision makers. It appears OFGEM and the electric company have believed the sales pitch.
    However there are issues, the device makes the Network less resilient under fault conditions and existing overcurrent and earth fault protection is somewhat compromised.
    A much better use of Capital is to purchase low loss Network transformers (slightly higher Capital outlay) which immediately and for the 50 year life of the transformer saves you 5% energy in reducing core magnetic losses.

  18. December 24, 2022 6:07 am

    Just like all Green Energy, the cost is much, much more than the less than the below zero, net negative, benefit.

  19. December 24, 2022 6:11 am

    A much better use of Capital is to use reliable, 24/7 fossil and nuclear fuels and keep the power on during difficult times. They tell us to get rid of fossil and nuclear power and replace them with intermittent renewables, then they tell us that if it is hot or cold, don’t use the power because it does not work in hot or cold times, but it works great when demand is low.

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