Will there be power cuts this winter? Why UK homes could face energy shortages amid Russia’s Ukraine invasion

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Millions of UK homes could see their electricity rationed this winter, primarily during peaks in the morning and evening

Six million homes across the UK could face potential power cuts this winter, ministers have been warned.

Government modelling of a “reasonable” worst-case scenario predicts major gas shortages in winter if Russia cuts off more supplies to the EU, the Times reports.

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The warning comes after the Kremlin halted gas exports to Finland earlier this month in response to Helsinki’s bid to join Nato, with Vladimir Putin accused of using gas supplies as ‘blackmail’ after turning off supplies to Poland and Bulgaria.

Millions of UK homes could see their electricity rationed this winter (Photo: Getty Images)Millions of UK homes could see their electricity rationed this winter (Photo: Getty Images)
Millions of UK homes could see their electricity rationed this winter (Photo: Getty Images)

What impact would energy shortages have?

The Times writes that limits could be imposed on industrial use of gas, including on gas-fired power stations, causing electricity shortages.

It means that as many as six million homes could see their electricity rationed, primarily during peaks in the morning and evening, in curbs that may last for more than a month.

Worse modelling is reported for a scenario in which Russia cuts off all supplies to the EU.

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A Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy spokesperson said the UK “has no issues with either gas or electricity supply, and the government is fully prepared for any scenario, even those that are extreme and very unlikely to pass”.

The spokesperson explained: “Thanks to a massive £90 billion investment in renewable energy in the last decade, we have one of the most reliable and diverse energy systems in the world.

“And unlike Europe, we are not dependent on Russian energy imports.”

However, threats to security of supply have prompted Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng to ask Britain’s coal-fired power stations to delay their planned closures.

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A government spokesperson said the request for the power stations in Drax, Ratcliffe and West Burton, which were due to shut in September, to stay open was made “in light” of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The spokesperson said: “It is only right that we explore a wide range of options to further bolster our energy security and domestic supply – bringing down costs in the long-term.

“While there is no shortage of supply, we may need to make our remaining coal-fired power stations available to provide additional back-up electricity this coming winter if needed.

“It remains our firm commitment to end the use of coal power by October 2024.”

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Where does the UK get its gas from?

The UK continues to produce its own gas but its output has been steadily decreasing over the past 20 years, with more than half of its gas now imported.

Natural gas piped from the North Sea and the East Irish Sea to refineries on land makes up 44% of the UK’s gas production.

Around 47% of the UK’s gas supply now comes from across Europe - predominantly Norway, Netherlands, Belgium, and Russia - through long distance pipelines.

Russia is Europe’s largest supplier of natural gas, providing around 35% of the gas used across the continent, but the UK’s reliance on Russia is not that significant at just 3%.

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A total of 9% of the UK’s gas is imported as liquid natural gas transported around the world in tankers at temperatures below -160C by ship, mainly from Qatar.

Even though the UK relies on Russian energy to a lesser extent than many other countries in Europe, it is still affected by the disruption in energy markets due to the war in Ukraine.

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