LONDON (Reuters) - Britain could see widespread power blackouts during next year's winter if a series of unforeseen events such as a cold snap or unplanned station outages occurs simultaneously, a report for an advisory body to the prime minister warned on Thursday.
Britain's power capacity margin, which is the production capacity available above demand levels, is expected to be dangerously low in the winter of 2014/15, an engineering report for the Council for Science and Technology said.
Britain's energy regulator Ofgem and network operator National Grid have also warned of shrinking margins and in response are creating tools aimed at reducing peak demand.
"Although the electricity supply is expected to be sufficient to cover predicted levels of demand, it is likely to stretch the system close to its limits, notably during the winter of 2014-15, increasing the chances of power outages," the Royal Academy of Engineering said in a statement accompanying its report.
Over the coming year, Britain faces further closures of coal- and oil-fired power plants to comply with pollution laws.
Additionally, several operators of gas-fired power stations have taken plants offline because high gas prices created losses for older facilities.
The report said the government should speed up its electricity market reform (EMR) programme, which foresees paying generators of standby capacity to keep plants running.
"Government will set the market conditions but it is private industry that will invest the necessary money," said John Roberts, chair of the study's working group.
"Most of the energy companies operating in this country are international organisations that will invest in the UK only if it proves to be an attractive market."
The EMR is expected to be passed into law next year.
(Reporting by Karolin Schaps; Editing by Dale Hudson)