Homes face winter power cuts in worst-case scenario, says National Grid

BBC NEWS - Noor Nanji - OCT 6, 2022

British households could lose power for up to three hours at a time this winter if gas supplies run extremely low, National Grid has warned.

The company said it was an "unlikely" scenario but added that supply interruptions were a possibility if the energy crisis escalated.

Cuts would probably occur at peak times and customers would be warned in advance.

But as a "base case" National Grid expects homes will face no problems.

Customers would be warned at least a day in advance about the power cuts, which would occur at times of high demand, possibly in the morning, or more likely between 4pm and 9pm.

They would be rotated so not all areas of the country were affected at the same time.

When campaigning to be leader of the Conservative Party in August, Prime Minister Liz Truss pledged that there would be no energy rationing this winter.

Asked on Thursday if she could guarantee there would be no blackouts, the Prime Minister said, "what we're clear about is that we do have a good supply of energy in the UK, we're in a much better position than many other countries, but of course there's always more we can do and that's why I'm here working with our partners making sure we do have a secure energy supply into the future".

Reports have suggested that some in the government want to run a campaign this winter encouraging households to save energy, but this has been opposed by Ms Truss.

A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, said: "Ministers are not launching a public information campaign and any claim otherwise is untrue."

The UK is heavily reliant on gas to produce electricity, with gas-fired power stations generating more than 40% of the country's electricity. It also imports electricity from Continental Europe.

National Grid - which keeps the lights on in England, Scotland and Wales - said Russia's invasion of Ukraine had created "unprecedented turmoil and volatility" in the energy markets.

Gas flows from Russia to Europe have been all but cut off, leaving countries scrambling for alternative supplies.

Although Britain is far less reliant on Russian gas than mainland Europe, it could still suffer knock-on effects from any shortfalls in supplies on the continent, National Grid said.

In a report, it laid out three possible scenarios for what might happen this winter.

Its central view remains that there will be enough energy to provide Britain with similar levels of electricity to previous winters.

But it has modelled two more worrying scenarios which could arise.

In the first, the energy crisis in Europe would result in Britain not being able to import electricity from France, Belgium or the Netherlands, although power would still flow from Norway.

Without taking action, National Grid warned this situation could lead to shortages.

However, it said it had struck deals with three power companies - EDF, Drax and Uniper - to keep additional coal-fired power generators on standby in case they are needed.

It will also launch a scheme from 1 November which incentivises businesses and households to reduce their electricity use at key times:

  • Households with smart meters could be offered payments for cutting usage, such as by avoiding using their washing machine or oven. Households could be paid an estimated £10 per day.

  • Larger businesses will be paid for reducing demand, for example by shifting their times of energy use or switching to batteries or generators in peak times.

Some suppliers have raised doubts about the scheme, but National Grid is encouraging them to work with customers to ensure the "highest levels of participation".

With these measures in place, it thinks that supply interruptions would be avoided. However, it said it had modelled a second, more extreme scenario, in which the energy crisis in Europe escalates, resulting in not enough gas being available in Britain.

In that event, distributors would be forced to cut off electricity to homes and firms for up to three hours during the day, it said. The measure, not used since the 1970s, would need the approval of the government and the King.


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