Posted: 1 April 2015
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Partners in power

What happens if there’s not enough supply to meet electricity demand during the winter months? David Preston, National Grid’s DSBR Account Manager, explains why an innovative new partnership with big electricity users is an important part of the company’s toolkit.

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Partners in power

Partners in power

The Demand Side Balancing Reserve (DSBR) service was set up to deal with potential shortfalls in the supply of electricity over the winter months.

“In simple terms DSBR means we team up with large users of electricity working in partnership with them so that if there is an emergency they are able to reduce their demand during peak times.”

David Preston, National Grid’s DSBR Account Manager.


Tata Steel, Anglian Water, Flexitricity and Limejump all took part in the DSBR pilot scheme last year.

Source: National Grid.

Whenever I’m asked to describe National Grid’s Demand Side Balancing Reserve service – DSBR for short – I like to use the example of home insurance. I know it’s vital to protect my house and its contents against something unforeseen, but I’ll be more than happy if 12 months down the line the premium is renewed without me ever having to call my broker.

In other words, it’s something that’s very important as a back-up, but it would be better if it wasn’t needed. It’s the same with DSBR, which is a creative and innovative way for National Grid to deal with a potential (though unlikely) shortfall in the supply of electricity over the winter months.

1305007. 8th May 2013.

David Preston, National Grid’s DSBR Account Manager.

In simple terms it means we team up with large users of electricity working in partnership with them so that if there is an emergency they are able to reduce their demand during peak times. We ask them to be prepared, if called on, to reduce their consumption for a short time on weekdays between 4pm and 8pm from November to February.

Reducing demand

Some will do that by powering down high usage equipment for a few hours. Others will switch to back-up generators. Some will simply make provision to use less for a while in a way that doesn’t compromise their business.

National Grid will pay companies who take part in the scheme a fee if they are ever called upon. We ran a pilot scheme last year, with 12 companies taking part across 430 locations, and now we’re looking for more businesses to apply to be part of the initiative for winter 2015/16.

As it turned out, we didn’t need to call upon any of the companies to reduce their consumption between November last year and February this year. The winter was fairly mild, there were few unplanned power station outages, renewables performed well and interconnectors brought in power from the continent.

Being prepared

Nevertheless, we need to be prepared. As old coal and oil power stations close, and gas generators are mothballed, the decline in available power means tighter energy margins at peak times. We need to be sure there’s enough reserves at all times.

The pilot scheme we ran helped us test out how the scheme would work, and we were helped by high profile partners like Tata Steel and Anglian Water. But it’s not just a scheme for the UK’s biggest users of power. Smaller operations like Flexitricity and Limejump can also be part of the initiative too, teaming up with others to ‘aggregate’ the amount of reduced consumption they are able to sign up to.

And we’ve made signing up for the scheme as simple as possible. That’s not just us saying that. Managers at chemicals firm ICL have applied to be part of the next DSBR initiative this winter, and they were impressed with how straightforward the tender process turned out to be – and with the support they received from National Grid’s dedicated DSBR team. And although we didn’t make use of the DSBR system over the winter, we were able to thoroughly test it out, and we were delighted with the results.

Read more:

Businesses wanting to find out more about the scheme should visit our Contingency Balancing Reserve website, which include the invitation to tender, or contact our team at

Click here for a case study on Anglian Water, one of 12 companies that took part in a Demand Side Balancing Reserve (DSBR) service pilot over the winter.

  • Neil Ormrod

    Hi, is there a scheme like this for large Gas users?

  • David Preston

    Neil, thanks for your question. Having spoken to colleagues on the Gas side of the business I can confirm that National Grid is currently in the process of developing a new Gas Demand Side Response service to encourage large gas consumers to offer to reduce their gas demand during times of system stress. The aim is that by providing DSR prior to entering a gas supply emergency, Daily Metered consumers have the potential to protect their critical loads by turning down other less critical loads and receive compensation for doing so. This has the potential to minimise the cost of demand interruptions and further reduce the likelihood of entering into an emergency. It is hoped that this service will be in place by 1 October 2016. For further information interested parties can contact directly.

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