The National Grid has warned that some areas of the country could experience scheduled blackouts this winter in the worst-case scenario.
Gas supplies are said to be in surplus at the moment, with the National Grid “cautiously confident” that the UK will be able to weather the winter months without taking this drastic action. However, there are many factors which could rapidly change this situation, and lead to three-hour daily blackouts.
How has the war in Ukraine affected the UK’s gas supply?
One of the biggest pressures on the gas supply of the UK at the moment is the war in Ukraine. Russia has supplied much of Europe’s gas over the past few years.
Grappling with financial sanctions and restrictions, Russia has cut its gas supply to Europe in the past year by 88%. As a result, the wholesale price of gas has increased 210% since the beginning of the war.
This is because as European nations turn to alternative suppliers, the prices significantly increase with less to go around. Therefore if a sufficient supply is not available, blackouts may be needed to conserve as much as possible and stop the grid from collapsing over the difficult winter months.
Another scenario could see the electricity supply from nations such as France, Belgium and the Netherlands be cut in the winter months, as the nations deal with their own energy crises. Around 43% of the UK’s power plants are gas-fired, meaning if there is a shortage, some may not be able to operate to full capacity.
A statement from the National Grid said: “In the unlikely event we were in this situation, it would mean that some customers could be without power for pre-defined periods during a day – generally this is assumed to be for three-hour blocks.”
What other factors will affect the need for scheduled blackouts?
The National Grid has said that it expects to get through the winter period with the current gas supply. This is what the group has labelled the “base case” scenario.
The worst case scenario, in which scheduled blackouts could be introduced, includes pressure from Russian gas supply, while also grappling with extreme weather conditions. Weather conditions such as those seen in the ‘Beast from the East’ storms of 2018 could add additional pressure on the grid.
Consumers are being encouraged to reduce the pressure on the grid by using energy at non-peak times. The peak time for energy consumption in the UK is 4pm until 7pm.
Energy companies are set to introduce new incentives in November which will reward customers for using energy outside of these times. In some cases, customers will be able to save around £100 on their bills by doing so.