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Electricity generation in the UK

Information

In the UK, electricity is generated in a number of different ways. It is important to have different fuel sources and technologies to generate electricity so that supply is not overly reliant on one type of power generation.

Each site should have its own Site-Specific Risk Information (SSRI) datasheet to identify specific hazards, site layout plans, emergency procedures, fixed installations and firefighting considerations.

The majority of sites will have permanently staffed control rooms, with competent personnel who will have direct control over safety systems, CCTV, monitoring facilities, etc. The number of people on site can be minimal, especially at night, and renewable energy sites, such as solar panel farms, will most probably be unstaffed.

These facilities will be well managed, professionally run, and have extensive emergency action plans. Utility companies provide ample signage warning of high voltages and relevant dangers.

The different types of energy and the amount of electricity these sites create are:

Fossil fuels

Most of the UK's electricity is produced by burning fossil fuels, mainly natural gas and also coal. A very small amount is produced from oil. The volume of electricity generated by coal-fired and gas-fired power stations changes each year, with some switching between the two depending on fuel prices.

Nuclear

Some electricity comes from nuclear reactors, in which uranium atoms are split up to produce heat using a process known as fission. The UK's original nuclear power stations are gradually being decommissioned. Several companies have plans to build a new generation of reactors.

For further information refer to A Guide to Nuclear Regulation in the UK, published by the Office of Nuclear Regulation.

Renewable energy

Renewable technologies use natural energy to make electricity. Fuel sources include wind, wave, marine, hydro, biomass and solar.

Imports

The UK electricity network is connected to systems in France and Ireland through cables called interconnectors. The UK uses these to import or export electricity when it is most economical.

Electrical generating facilities

These facilities will all differ massively in construction, layout and associated hazards. They will all produce electricity at high voltage in alternating current (AC) and have the facility to connect to the national grid.

Hazards (for further information refer to National Operational Guidance: Utilities and fuel)

  • Electrocution, which can occur without physical contact with equipment
  • Confined spaces
  • Chemical hazards
  • Noise
  • Working at height
  • Superheated steam
  • Explosive atmospheres due to gas supplies
  • Oil-filled switchgear, transformers, regulators and capacitors, which, once alight, will need to be fully isolated before firefighting operations are commenced
  • Smoke and gases due to burning oil and insulating materials
  • Explosions from oil-filled equipment, both overhead and at ground level

References and further reading

https://www.energy-uk.org.uk/our-work/generation/electricity-generation.html

www.emfs.info/sources/substations/