National Grid to rename inaccurate alerts to avoid fuelling panic


National Grid is seeking to rename the alert it issues to warn of possible supply shortages, claiming that calling it a “gas deficit warning” is inaccurate and can fuel panic.

The utility company, which ensures that Britain’s gas supply and demand are in balance, issued the warning during the Beast from the East cold spell last year after a “series of significant supply losses resulting in a forecast end-of-day supply deficit”.

The alert to the gas market, designed to inform traders that they needed “to provide more gas or reduce demand”, sent prices soaring and ultimately had the desired effect by securing enough gas to meet demand, which was unusually high in the freezing weather.

However, in a submission to an industry panel, National Grid has complained that the warning “does not adequately reflect the purpose of the message and was, unhelpfully, taken out of context by some market observers”.

It said that reporting of the warning “fuelled a sense of panic in the market that was unwarranted, potentially resulting in higher within-day gas prices”.

It has applied to an industry panel to rebrand it as a “gas balancing notification” to avoid “unwarranted market concern, inaccurate reporting and unnecessary public perception of crisis”.

National Grid is a FTSE 100 company employing 22,000 people in Britain and America. It reported profits of £2.7 billion last year.

National Grid’s proposal would reverse a change in 2012 when the gas deficit warning was introduced to replace “gas balancing alerts”. National Grid claimed then that the alerts may not “provide a clear indication of the severity of the supply-demand deficit”.

A spokesman for National Grid said: “When we issued a gas deficit warning on March 1 [2018], it meant we were projecting a material end-of-day imbalance which shippers needed to address. The name [gas deficit warning] did not accurately reflect that we were seeking to address an end-of-day imbalance; rather, it incorrectly implied there was an immediate issue with gas supplies.”