Homes could face three-hour power outages this winter, warns National Grid | Energy industry | Catch My Job


Households could experience a series of three-hour power cuts this winter if Vladimir Putin cuts gas supplies from Russia and Britain experiences a cold snap, National Grid has warned.

Such an event would mean that consumers in different parts of the country would be notified a day in advance of three-hour blocks of time during which their electricity would be cut off, in order to reduce overall consumption by 5%.

The contingency plan is due to be approved by King Charles on the recommendation of the business secretary.

National Grid said that in the “unlikely event” of a gas shortage, some customers would be without power for “pre-defined periods” during a day to “ensure the overall safety and integrity of the UK-wide electricity system”.

It has been said that electricity imports from Europe and insufficient gas supply to power plants will have to be reduced in order for the planned blackouts to occur.

National Grid has released a series of scenarios that could play out this winter as it assesses a highly uncertain period for power supplies amid the fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

A senior industry source said: “We are entering the winter in an unprecedented situation. Even during the cold war, the Soviet Union kept the gas flowing, so it’s very unpredictable.

National Grid has been working on a number of initiatives to try to manage supply and demand this winter. It is set to launch five coal-fired power stations, capable of producing up to 2 gigawatts of power – after signing contracts with Draco, EDF and Uniper at a cost of £340m to £395m.

It will also launch a “demand flexibility service” on November 1 that will encourage businesses and consumers to use electricity outside of peak demand periods, including early evenings on weekdays. Consumers with smart meters will be notified a day in advance and will be charged for using electricity outside of these time periods. The initiative was tried earlier this year by Octopus Energi.

National Grid hopes the service will free up an additional 2GV, enough to power around 600,000 homes, if enough companies and households participate.

The network operator stressed that it is “cautiously confident” that there will be enough electricity this winter to meet the needs of businesses and consumers.

In its “base case” scenario, the electricity system operator National Grid believes that about 3.7 GW more electricity will be produced than the country needs. It predicts “a sufficient operating surplus over the winter” although it expects low margins from early December to mid-January, excluding Christmas.

However, National Grid outlined two alternative scenarios in which gas shortages in Europe, which could be caused by Russian supply disruptions, or outages in another country’s generation fleet, cut off energy supplies.

According to the first scenario, electricity imports from France, Belgium and the Netherlands are reduced for the whole winter. This would put coal-fired stations into operation and launch a demand flexibility service.

Under a more drastic vision, gas shortages would destroy around 10 GW of gas-fired electricity generation and use “temporary rotational load shedding”, where consumers are disconnected.

Reductions in Russian gas deliveries to Europe, including the cutting of the damaged Nord Stream 1 pipeline, have caused a gas supply scramble in Europe. The European Commission’s goal of filling gas storage by 80% by November 1 looks set to be met, but a period of colder weather could boost demand. Although Britain does not rely on Russian gas, importers are exposed to the impact.

Most of the UK’s gas supplies come from the North Sea and Norway, with most of the rest from imports of liquefied natural gas from around the world. Imports from Europe, especially during the winter, usually account for about 6% of gas supplies.

However, if pressure in Europe puts pressure on these supplies, Britain could be forced to look for gas from different sources, including increased LNG imports where there is competition from countries around the world.

National Grid said it expects gas and electricity prices to remain high over the winter.

Any possibility of power outages will also depend heavily on the weather. The European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts said this week that Europe could suffer a colder winter with less rain and wind than average. A period of high pressure is predicted over Western Europe in November and December, which could reduce the amount of energy produced from renewable sources.

Fintan Slie, chief executive of National Grid ESO, said: “In our base case, as outlined in the winter forecasts, we are cautiously confident that there will be adequate margins over the winter period.

“As the expert and responsible operator of the UK’s electricity system, it is up to us to also take into account external factors and risks beyond our control, such as unprecedented turmoil and instability in energy markets in Europe and beyond.”


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