What is energy rationing? How does it work and will the UK ration usage this winter amid rising energy bills

In August government officials published the ‘reasonable worst case scenario’ document, which predicted the UK could be faced with blackouts this winter

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The UK is on the brink of an energy crisis this winter, with soaring prices hitting households hard.

In October the energy price cap is rising by 80% to £3,549 a year, with furthers hikes predicted in January.

The war in Ukraine is also having an impact, with Russia recently limiting gas supplies to the EU.

Government officials believe that without energy rationing, the UK could experience blackouts this winter and there is growing concern that the country will be left without power.

At the final husting for the Tory Leadership Conference, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss ruled out rationing measures.

Her colleagues have called on her to reconsider and to follow the lead of other countries in Europe.

But what is energy rationing and how can it help? Here’s everything you need to know.

Liz Truss has ruled out energy rationing if she becomes PM (Pic: NationalWorld/Kim Mogg)Liz Truss has ruled out energy rationing if she becomes PM (Pic: NationalWorld/Kim Mogg)
Liz Truss has ruled out energy rationing if she becomes PM (Pic: NationalWorld/Kim Mogg)

What is energy rationing?

Energy rationing is when the government steps in to put limits on the use of power in times of energy shortages.

These measures could include closing the use of gas-fired power stations, preventing businesses or commercial settings from using energy or even turning off electricity for households during peak times.

In July, the EU voted to ration gas usage this winter, reducing output by 15%.

The energy crisis is being fuelled by the war in Ukraine, with Russia limiting access to their gas reserves.

There are growing concerns that if Russia completely cuts off access that blackouts could become commonplace this winter.

Will there be energy rationing in the UK this winter?

Energy rationing could be used to help save fuel this winter and prevent costs from soaring even higher.

In August the government published its “reasonable worst case scenario” document relating to the energy crisis.

In it, they explained that businesses and consumers in the UK this winter could face blackouts if winter weather combines with gas shortages, leaving a power shortage.

A source from the government has said that the possibility of having to ration energy is “unlikely” as the UK is “well prepared for any supply disruptions.”

Adding: “unlike EU countries, our North Sea gas reserves are being pumped out at full pelt, Norwegian rigs are directly connected into the UK, and we have the second-largest LNG [liquefied natural gas] import infrastructure in Europe – whereas Germany has none”.

Energy Street in Manchester, England (Pic: Getty Images)Energy Street in Manchester, England (Pic: Getty Images)
Energy Street in Manchester, England (Pic: Getty Images)

Has energy rationing happened before?

The UK has undertaken energy rationing before, between 1973-1974 during the oil crisis and miners strike.

The measures were brought in by Conservative PM Edward Heath.

The “three-day-week” rule helped to conserve coal supplies, allowing commercial premises or businesses just three days of energy each week.

What has Liz Truss said?

In the final husting for the Tory Leadership, Truss was asked about whether or not she would rule out ration energy.

The foreign secretary said: “I do rule that out. Yes.”

Gavin Barwell, Theresa May’s former chief of staff took to Twitter to challenge Truss’ statement, calling her approach “crazy”

Barwell said: “So if it is a cold winter and there simply isn’t enough energy to go round – which is a real risk – we are just going to have random blackouts rather than the government rationing non-domestic use so that vulnerable people don’t find themselves without heating.”

When asked about how she will support struggling businesses, Truss said: “You’ll have heard me talking about supply of energy and that’s why I think dealing with supply is the answer to this problem because you’re right, it’s not just a problem for people, it’s a problem for businesses with high energy costs.

“So, I will be looking across the board to make sure we’re increasing supply and therefore dealing with the root cause of the issue rather than just putting a sticking plaster on, but I would absolutely be looking to act on business energy costs.”

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