National Grid says that in the worst case, homes could lose power in the winter. National Grid has warned that if gas supplies get very low this winter, British homes could lose power for up to three hours at a time.
The company said that it was an “unlikely” scenario, but they also said that if the energy crisis got worse, there could be supply interruptions.
Most likely, cuts would happen during busy times, and customers would be told ahead of time. But National Grid thinks that homes won’t have any problems as a “base case.”
Customers would be told about the power cuts at least a day in advance. They would happen at times of high demand, possibly in the morning or more likely between 4 pm and 9 pm.
They would move around the country so that not every area would be affected at the same time. In August, when Prime Minister Liz Truss was running for leader of the Conservative Party, she promised that there would be no energy rationing this winter.
But the UK depends heavily on gas to make electricity. More than 40% of the country’s electricity comes from gas-fired power plants. It also gets electricity from Europe’s mainland.
National Grid, which keeps the lights on in England, Scotland, and Wales, said that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had caused the energy markets to have “unprecedented turmoil and volatility.”
Almost all of the gas that used to flow from Russia to Europe has stopped, leaving countries scrambling to find other sources.
National Grid said that even though Britain gets much less of its gas from Russia than the rest of Europe, it could still be affected by any shortages on the continent.
In a report, three possible things that could happen this winter were laid out.
Its main point of view is still that there will be enough energy to give Britain about the same amount of electricity as in winter’s past.
But it has made models of two more scary things that could happen.
At first, Britain would not be able to get electricity from France, Belgium, or the Netherlands because of the energy crisis in Europe. However, Norway would still be able to send electricity to Britain.
National Grid said that if nothing was done, this situation could lead to shortages if nothing was done.
But it said that it had made deals with EDF, Drax, and Uniper to keep extra coal-fired power generators on standby in case they are needed.
Some suppliers have doubts about the plan, but National Grid is encouraging them to work with customers to make sure the “highest levels of participation.”
It thinks that supply interruptions would not happen if these steps were taken. But it said it had also modeled a second, worst-case scenario in which the energy crisis in Europe gets worse and Britain runs out of gas.
It said that if that happened, electricity would have to be cut off to homes and businesses for up to three hours during the day. The measure hasn’t been used since the 1970s. The government and the King would have to agree to it.
National Grid said, “If this happened, which is unlikely, it would mean that some customers could be without power for set times during the day. Usually, this is thought to be for three-hour blocks.”
It also said that the number of people who lose power will depend on how many gas-powered stations have to close because of a lack of gas.
Hospitals, “priority businesses,” and people who are weak would not be affected by the cuts.
National Grid said that the industry would work with the government to let people know about these changes, including through press conferences like those held by Covid.
In a separate report about gas supplies over the winter, the National Grid also said that if there is a cold snap or a cold winter, there could be a shortage of gas this winter, which could be fixed by paying more.
When the new energy price guarantee went into effect on October 1, most people’s energy bills went up. But the increase was less than what was expected before the government said it would put a cap on domestic bills to keep people from going through hard times.
Overall, the grid operator came to the conclusion that this winter will probably be “challenging” for the energy supply.
A warning about Northern Ireland
The National Grid report is about the country of Great Britain. But there is also a warning that Northern Ireland might lose power in 2024 or 2025 if nothing is done.
System Operator NI (SONI), which is in charge of the grid, says the problem is with the Kilroot power station and the environmental permits that limit how long it can run.
SONI says that it is working on the problem with the Department for the Economy and the regulator.
This week, the industry watchdog Ofgem said there is a “significant risk” that the UK will run out of gas this winter, which could affect how much electricity is available.
It said that Russia’s war with Ukraine made it possible that the UK could have a “gas supply emergency.”
Ofgem said, in response to National Grid’s predictions, “We have one of the most reliable energy systems in the world, and we are in a good place.”
“However, it’s up to a smart and responsible energy sector to make sure the right backup plans are in place. That’s why we’re working with the government, National Grid, and other key partners to protect consumers and make sure Great Britain is ready for any problems this winter.”
A spokesperson for the government said, “We are confident in our plans to protect homes and businesses this winter in all possible situations.”