A major U.K. utility has warned customers that they face potential three-hour power cuts this winter, if volatility and uncertainty in global energy markets worsens.
National Grid, which provides power to homes and businesses in England, Scotland and Wales, said that under its “base case” customers will face no problems and outages were “unlikely,” but they were possible under a worst-case scenario where gas supplies run extremely low.
“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine means that overall, this is likely to be a challenging winter for energy supply throughout Europe. As a result, ESO has developed additional tools to manage risk,” said the NatGrid’s
Electricity Service Operator in its winter plan released on Thursday.
Moscow has all but cut off gas flows to Europe, causing countries across the continent, including the U.K., to pay significantly higher prices for remaining supplies. Gas-fired power stations generate 40% of Great Britain’s electricity.
NatGrid warned of a scenario where Continental Europe might not be able to export electricity into the U.K. due to either gas shortages or production problems in other countries.
“In the unlikely event we were in this situation, it would mean thatsome customers could be without power for pre-defined periods during a day – generally this is assumed to be for 3 hour blocks,” said NatGrid.
“This would be necessary to ensure the overall security and integrity of the electricity system across Great Britain. All possible mitigating strategies would be deployed to minimise the disruption,” the company said.
NatGrid said that households would be told in advance about power cuts, which would likely occur at peak times, in the morning or between 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
The company added it would create a new Demand Flexibility Service, where customers will be “incentivized” to cut back on consumption or switch off the power at key times to bring down overall demand throughout the system.
Climate Minister Graham Stuart took a measured approach to the story that has been dominating U.K. headlines, brushing aside reports on Friday that a public information campaign on saving energy had been rejected by Downing Street.
“It’s about getting the right messaging from the right partners,” he told Sky News on Friday. He added that families can get plenty of advice on how to save on their finances through Ofgem and gov.uk website.
“The last thing you want to do is tell someone to switch things off for the national need when it makes no difference to the national security position,” he said. “We think we’ve got a pretty diverse, strong supply and in all central scenarios, we’re going to be fine, but we plan for everything.”
Shadow Climate and Net Zero Secretary Ed Miliband tweeted Thursday that the National Grid report “shows our vulnerability as country is a direct result of Conservative energy policy over 10 years- banning onshore wind, stalling on energy efficiency, failing on nuclear and closing gas storage have led to higher bills + reliance on gas imports.”