How close is the UK to blackouts this winter? Will areas be without energy 2022, what has PM Liz Truss said

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The National Grid warned consumers that controlled blackouts may be required in the worst-case scenario this winter

UK residents have been warned of controlled blackouts this winter, after the National Grid laid out its best and worst-case scenarios for getting through the next few months.

The group announced on 6 October that in the worst case scenario, parts of the country may experience three-hour blackouts as the UK seeks to conserve energy. The National Grid said that this situation was “unlikely”, however warned that external factors could determine whether this happens or not.

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It comes after Prime Minister Liz Truss attempted to alleviate any anxiety over the matter. However, Ms Truss previously made comments which said that this situation would not happen in the UK this winter.

But how likely are blackouts, and what did Liz Truss say?

How close is the UK to blackouts this winter?

The National Grid has told the public it is “cautiously confident” that planned blackouts will not be used to relieve stress on the supply of gas, but warned of factors which could change this possibility. This includes the war in Ukraine and the subsequent pressure on wholesale prices of gas.

With Russia currently under financial sanctions as a result of its invasion of Ukraine, gas supply to Europe from the country has significantly decreased. As a result of this, more pressure has been put on the existing supplies outside of Russia, with prices soaring exponentially as more countries look to take their business elsewhere.

The biggest issue the UK may face is the fact that gas-fired power plants currently produce 43% of the country’s electricity. If supplies dwindle then operating these plants to full capacity may become an issue and consumers may be forced to ration electricity.

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However, the National Grid has said that at present, the UK has “sufficient operational surplus [of gas] throughout winter”. It expects to be able to get through the winter with this surplus if there are no changes to the external factors.

Additionally, if gas supplies are cut off from European countries such as France, Belgium and the Netherlands amid the energy crisis, the National Grid says that there are currently two gigawatts of coal-fired power plants on stand-by to support the grid if needed.

Another factor which could affect supplies is extreme weather. If the country is faced with conditions as seen in the 2018 ‘Beast from the East’ storms, energy consumption will increase, however the National Grid expects it has enough surplus gas to make it through this event.

What has Liz Truss said about the potential blackouts?

The Prime Minister spoke to reporters following the announcement and said the UK “can get through the winter” with its current supplies. Ms Truss said that the country has “good energy supplies”.

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Despite saying that there was no plan to announce an energy-reducing campaign, she stopped short of guaranteeing that there would be no planned blackouts. This is in contrast to her views on the topic during her Tory leadership campaign.

During a hustings event on 1 September with former leadership candidate Rishi Sunak, Ms Truss told Conservative Party members that she would rule out any possibility of energy rationing during her time in power.

In opposition, Mr Sunak told the audience that “we shouldn’t rule anything out”, adding:  “The challenges we face with this crisis are significant. Many European countries are looking at how we can all optimise our energy usage, that is a sensible thing for us to be doing as a country.”

Ms Truss’ government has already U-turned on her controversial and unpopular tax cut for the wealthiest in the country. If energy rationing and controlled blackouts were to be introduced in the worst-case scenario, the Prime Minister may need to U-turn on another promise made during her leadership campaign.

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