UK blackouts: ‘no blackouts this winter’ in the UK, says minister

Parts of the country have been left without power after the cold snap

There will be no blackouts this winter unless Britain suffers a major external shock to its power supply, a Cabinet minister has said.

There have been fears of pressure on the electricity grid if imports from Europe dry up amid a squeeze on global energy supplies, with potential for the first planned outages in decades during the colder months. In what it called an “unlikely” scenario, the National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO) said in October that households and businesses might be deprived of power for short periods to prevent a collapse.

But the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said on Sunday that people can have “confidence” there will not be blackouts this winter, save for “some very, very major external shock that would affect the supply of power into this country”. Oliver Dowden said he had “engaged” with Business Secretary Grant Shapps on the issue “a lot”.

Earlier this year, National Grid warned households of the possibility of three-hour blackouts if energy supply cannot meet demand. Credit: Getty ImagesEarlier this year, National Grid warned households of the possibility of three-hour blackouts if energy supply cannot meet demand. Credit: Getty Images
Earlier this year, National Grid warned households of the possibility of three-hour blackouts if energy supply cannot meet demand. Credit: Getty Images

Asked if he could guarantee there would not be outages, he told Times Radio: “It is the case that excepting some very, very extreme, unforeseen scenario disrupting supply, we would not expect that to happen, no, so people can have that confidence.” Concerns over Britain’s power supply were heightened last month when the ESO issued and then rapidly cancelled a notice that warned of tight margins between supply and demand.

Planned blackouts hit the UK during the 1970s in response to the miners’ strikes and the oil crisis. There have also been major unplanned outages during storms, including in 1987 when more than 1.5 million people were left in the dark. But the lights will stay on this winter unless the gas-fired power plants that produced 43% of Britain’s electricity over the last year cannot get enough fuel to keep running.

More to follow.