Brits face 4pm to 7pm blackouts on `really really cold’ weekdays in the middle of winter.
National Grid chief executive John Pettigrew warned homeowners the company would have to impose rolling power cuts on `those deepest darkest evenings in January and February’ in the event of reduced gas imports from Europe.
He said the nation risks being plunged into enforced darkness if power generators fail to secure enough gas from the continent to meet demand in a cold snap.
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His comments came after National Grid, which oversees Britain’s electricity and gas systems, set out various `unlikely’ scenarios in which the UK might not have sufficient energy supplies this winter.
Most European countries are grappling with an energy crisis caused by Russia ’s squeeze on natural gas exports.
Though Britain is not reliant on Russian exports it normally imports gas and electricity from the continent during the coldest months – particularly severe weather events such as the 2018 Beast From The East storm.
Analysts are worried about this winter’s supplies after Russia shut off gas exports to north-west Europe via the Nordstream 1 pipeline in August.
Mr Pettigrew, 54, said in National Grid’s `base case’ there would be sufficient gas and power to meet demand in Britain this winter.
But he said in the context of the terrible things that are going on in the Ukraine and the consequences of that’ it wasright that we set out what some of the potential risks could be’.
He said the big period of concern would be in the first two months of 2023 if the weather turned cold and there were insufficient supplies to feed the UK’s gas-fired power stations – the backbone of the system.
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The situation would become particularly acute if wind speeds during the cold snap were too low to power turbines and electricity imports via subsea cables from countries mainland Europe were restricted.
In those worst case’ circumstances power would be cut off to parts of the country for up to three hoursprobably between 4pm and 7pm in the evenings on those weekdays when it’s really, really cold in January and February’, Mr Pettigrew said.
He said there was a `huge amount of work’ being done by energy suppliers, the regulator and officials to ensure vulnerable households received support should blackouts become necessary.
The National Grid is to ask households to cut back on energy usage – even offering them cash to reduce demand.
Mr Pettigrew said the scheme would offer a `glimpse of what the future is actually going to be like’.
Even before the energy crisis it was anticipated households will play a much bigger role in balancing electricity systems as the country cuts down on carbon emissions. That could involve using electric cars or batteries at home to store power during periods of oversupply and release it during peak demand.
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