Companies put faith in diesel and biofuel to keep the lights on
Businesses are racing to hire back-up generators to keep their lights on this winter amid fears that gas supplies will run low across Europe.
A string of major companies have booked equipment ahead of a possible squeeze on gas supplies that has sparked talk of rationing on the Continent.
In the UK, where ministers are reportedly drawing up worst-case scenario plans for heavy industry blackouts, some big users are instead opting for biofuel burners which can meet their electricity needs and sell surplus back to the grid.
Ben Robinson, European sales and marketing director at Aggreko, the biggest generator leasing business, said: “The UK grid might struggle to cope with the peak demand this winter.”
David Hunt, managing director of generator leasing firm John F. Hunt Power, said: “We’ve got more and more inquiries for people who are frankly quite concerned about the capacity, quite concerned about how their businesses are going to cope.
“We anticipate having a very, very busy winter across all of our sectors.”
Biofuel burners are increasingly popular in Britain partly because of rules introduced in April that banned the use of red diesel for most commercial power generation.
This means that whereas users could buy a lower-tax version of the fuel a year ago at about 59 pence per litre, they must now pay prices approaching those at the pump of up to 186 pence.
After another tightening of regulation, buyers of diesel generators must now purchase stage-five generators which are cleaner, but are also up to twice as expensive per energy unit to hire out, Mr Hunt added.
He has ordered 180 of these cleaner units for arrival this year, but they are arriving slower than expected.
Mr Hunt said: “Could I tell you exactly when they are arriving? No. That supplier in Italy has got his own supply chain issues, engine manufacture has slowed down.”
Rolls-Royce, the engineer better known for jet engines, makes diesel units through its MTU business, based in Germany. It said that customers which operate internet data centres helped push up sales to a second quarter record. Orders of £2.1bn for the first half were up 53pc from a year ago.
The company is also attracting interest from businesses setting up their own small grids to ease their reliance on national power infrastructure.
Andreas Görtz, president of sustainable power solutions at Rolls-Royce’s Power Systems business, said: “The energy crisis has definitely triggered an increase in interest in sustainable and climate-friendly power solutions. 
“These range from energy storage systems that incorporate large battery solutions, to microgrids that can connect renewable energy sources such as wind and solar with conventional power generation to ensure continuity of supply, and even hydrogen-enabled energy solutions such as fuel cells. We’re seeing demand turn into orders for these newer technologies.”
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