NATIONAL Grid is to pay mothballed plants to be online this winter to prevent power cuts, it has said.

The company, which owns and manages the UK's power grid, said the move was a "sensible precaution" due to uncertainty over the power plants that would be available this winter.

National Grid had set out plans for mothballed or closed generators to bid for payments to be in reserve for the 2015-16 winter to cope with an anticipated "energy crunch" when the gap between total power capacity and expected peak demand could shrink to as little as two per cent.

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It had not planned to run the scheme for this winter, but since June, when it announced its proposals, there have been fires at the Ironbridge and Ferrybridge power stations and an announcement that Barking power station was closing.

In addition, EDF has temporarily closed four reactors at Heysham 1 and Hartlepool for investigations over a defect found in one of them, taking enough power to supply three million homes off the system, which may have an impact.

Under the "supplemental balancing reserve" scheme, power generators will bid for payments to be available to provide power at peak times from 6am to 8pm daily during November to February, with extra payments if they are used, and fines if they are not available when needed.

In Scotland, Cockenzie in East Lothian is the only coal-fired power station which has been closed down but not yet demolished. The Scottish Power-operated plant closed in March 2013 and there are plans to replace it with a marine energy operation.