U.K. warned of possible winter power blackouts if Ukraine war cuts energy supplies


London — The company that manages the U.K.’s power and gas infrastructure has warned that Britons could face winter blackouts due to the fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The National Grid warned this week that the war had caused “unprecedented turmoil and volatility in energy markets in Europe and beyond.”

National Grid believes electricity supplies should be adequate to keep power on in the U.K. throughout the winter months, but in its Winter Outlook Report released Thursday, it modeled two additional scenarios, “given the scale of uncertainty and risks associated with the current geopolitical situation.”

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The first model looks at what would happen if the U.K. was left unable to import any electricity from continental Europe. In November, National Grid is launching a program to offer incentives to customers for reducing energy use during peak times. That program, plus the use of “retained coal units,” should mean that no power cuts would be necessary, the company said.

The second scenario assumes there is both an insufficient supply of electricity from Europe and an insufficient supply of gas to the U.K. Britain generates more than 40% of its electricity using gas-fired power stations.

“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 3 hour blocks,” National Grid said. “This would be necessary to ensure the overall security and integrity of the electricity system across Great Britain.”

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Amid reports that some in the British government wanted to run a campaign urging households to try to save energy this winter, U.K. Prime Minister Liz Truss — who reportedly opposed the campaign — said Thursday that “we do have a good supply of energy in the U.K. We’re in a much better position than many other countries, but of course there’s always more we can do, and that’s why I’m here working with our partners making sure we do have a secure energy supply into the future.”

Kathryn Porter, an analyst at the energy consulting firm Watt-Logic, told the Financial Times newspaper that National Grid’s assessment was “unreasonably optimistic,” and that it appeared to be “understating the risks.”

The charity Age U.K. called for a plan to be put in place to protect vulnerable households.

“We are thinking, for example, of older people with chronic health conditions who have to remain warm, or others who are dependent on electricity to run essential equipment, including home dialysis machines,” Caroline Abrahams, Age U.K.’s charity director, told BBC News.

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