New Paper: Histories of Balancing Demand and Supply in the UK’s Gas Networks, 1795-Present

I have a new paper out in the Journal of Energy History! The paper forms part of our special issue on historic flexibility within energy systems and there are some great papers in here, with more still to come. Check out the journal website for updates: JEHRHE #5 | Drupal (


This paper provides an account of how past changes in energy demand have affected the balancing of the UK’s gas systems between the introduction of gaslight in 1795 and the present day. Four periods are examined in which the principal uses of gas have broadly differed: periods in which the dominant uses of gas were respectively for lighting, cooking, industrial manufacture, and central heating. For each period, the paper describes how changes in the ways gas was used influenced patterns of demand and introduced opportunities and challenges for processes of balancing. Also described are how systems of gas provision were widely restructured in response to these shifts in patterns of gas demand.  Three key observations are developed: that issues with balancing demand and supply are not limited to electricity networks but have been, and continue to be, critical to the organisation of gas systems; that the ways in which energy is used influence the timings (durations, frequencies, regularities), intensities, and geographies of demand and condition the balancing strategies that are possible within given contexts; and that how energy is used, and thus the composition of demand and its relationship to patterns of supply, is dynamic.


Published by peterjamesforman

Peter Forman is a Senior Research Associate at Lancaster University. His work covers contemporary energy politics, political ecology and materialisms.

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