Britain could face three-hour power cuts this winter, warns National Grid

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Britain could face three-hour planned power cuts to some homes and businesses this winter, the National Grid warned on Thursday (6), though the government says it is confident of securing winter power.

The country could face three-hour planned power cuts to homes and businesses this winter if it cannot import electricity from Europe and struggles to attract enough gas imports to fuel gas-fired power plants.

“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,” the National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO) said in its Winter Outlook.

The prospect of power cuts comes as Prime Minister Liz Truss on Thursday (6) called on Europe to keep energy exports flowing during the winter, and is likely to heap further pressure on the government after she previously ruled out energy rationing in Britain.

Countries across Europe are drawing up winter contingency plans against the disruption of flows of gas from Russia because of the war in Ukraine, which could lead to rationing and a curb in exports of energy to other countries.

A shortage of gas in Europe, as well as maintenance issues with several French nuclear power plants, have raised the risk Britain could be unable to secure the gas it needs or the imports of electricity it typically receives from countries such as France, Belgium and Netherlands.

The British government said in response it was confident of securing power supplies for the winter.

“The UK has a secure and diverse energy system. We are confident in our plans to protect households and businesses in the full range of scenarios this winter,” a government spokesperson said.

“To strengthen this position further, we have put plans in place to secure supply,” the spokesperson added, pointing to Britain’s North Sea gas reserves, imports from partners like Norway and clean energy sources.

A separate risk assessment by the British government published on Thursday showed its security of gas supply met the standards required in law.

Its analysis said the infrastructure could meet gas demand across scenarios including “a combination of exceptional demand caused by severe weather conditions and the failure of the largest single piece of infrastructure on the gas network”.