Dieter Helm, professor of energy policy and a fellow of New College, cited calculations by Aurora Energy Consultancy, which predict that Britain’s surplus energy capacity will be close to zero in 2015-16, leading to a very high risk of blackouts.Helm attributes this risk to ministers’ failure to replace power stations that have been closed down and the unprecedented rate of economic growth. He said, “We know what the calculations are on the supply side because no new kit [power plants] will be built before 2015-16, but on the supply side all official estimates have underestimated GDP [gross domestic product] growth and therefore energy demand.“The government must be praying for another recession,” he added, saying that Britain needed to divert resources immediately into ensuring that Britain’s energy capacity was as high as it could be – a “Spitfire moment”. He recommended that ‘mothballed’ gas stations, closed down largely because of their inefficiency, be re-opened to meet the unprecedented command.Sir John Armitt, who is currently advising the Labour Party on Britain’s infrastructure needs, said, “In harsh political terms [blackouts] would be the best possible thing that could happen because this country is extremely good in a crisis.”He added, “The Central Electricity Generating Board used the say that a resilient network operated on a 25% capacity surplus. We’re down to 4% because we’ve gone slower than we should have done on nuclear.”The National Grid, while acknowledging the need for further investment in infrastructure, has dismissed claims that Britain is in danger of blackouts. A spokesperson said, “Margins are tighter this year than in previous years, but our view is that the market has the capability to meet electricity and gas demand this winter. We successfully managed similar levels back in 2008/9. We will continue to keep a watchful eye on the situation and take the necessary actions to keep the lights on.”A spokesperson from the Department of Energy & Climate Change was similarly confident about Britain’s capacity, saying, “We have legislated through the Energy Act 2013 to bring on the investment in new energy infrastructure that we need to replace power stations that are closing down.” This act includes the Electricity Market Reform (EMR) package, which aims to attract £110 billion of investment to replace outdated power plants and prevent the risk of blackouts.Oxford students were generally supportive of Helm’s statements. Ryan Hoyle, a first-year medic, said, “Blackouts wouldn’t necessarily be a terrible thing. As long as important services aren’t affected, it wouldn’t have a meaningful impact on people’s quality of life. If anything, it would force people to face up to the fact that energy isn’t unlimited and force us to think about our consumption.”Adam Ismail, a first-year engineer, said, “The current government refused to spend for ideological reasons. Now they’re finally realising that they can’t get away with it, and are proving Labour right. This Energy Act is too little, too late, and goes to show how shallow the environmental policy is of a prime minister who dismissed it as ‘green crap’”.