MILLIONS of households could face three-hour blackouts this winter, the National Grid has said.
The company, which is responsible for the UK’s gas and electricity supply, warned there might not be enough power for the country if the energy crisis 继续.
Households could get around £10 per day for turning down their appliances, but exact details will be revealed on November 1.
The National Grid Electricity System Operator has issued its bleak “winter outlook” report that details the scenario that a shortage of gas could mean “planned interruptions of electricity supply to businesses and households”.
If the power cuts do go ahead, it will be the first time there has been controlled blackouts since the 1970s.
有 15 power networks in the UK, and if there is a looming shortage, the National Grid will notify households if they will be cut off temporarily.
Chunks of households in particular areas could be cut off with the homes which have their supply turned off rotated to avoid the entire country being plunged into darkness.
The risk of energy shortages will be at peak times during the day – at breakfast time and early evenings.
Any blackouts would need approval from King Charles and the government before they go ahead.
Colder temperatures during the winter naturally lead to more energy being consumed as people turn the heating on and have to use electricity for longer periods of the day.
The risk is that since Russia’s flow of gas to Europe has stopped there is less supply which can be imported to Britain.
Europe has been so short of energy over the summer that British generators have been exporting more energy to France.
The National Grid has said that Britain will have to pay considerably more for gas than the rest of Europe to secure supplies.
It has warned that if there is a cold winter and not enough gas supplies “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 that this “would be necessary to ensure the overall security and integrity of the electricity system across Great Britain”.
Fintan Slye, executive director of the ESO, said that while it was “cautiously confident” there would be “adequate” supply “as an expert and responsible operator of Great Britain’s electricity system it is incumbent on us to also factor in external factors and risks beyond our control like the unprecedented turmoil and volatility in energy markets in Europe and beyond.”
The Grid said that the exact number of people left without electricity would depend on how many bigger energy intensive factories are powered down to conserve energy for households.
然而, it is thought that chunks of cities will be powered down at a time.
Factories will also receive multi-million pound payment incentives to power down when there is a risk of energy shortages.
However some industrial groups have warned that the payments are not enough to compensate for loss of business and they cannot be immediately shut on and off without sufficient notice in advance.
National Grid is also pushing a “demand flexibility service” which could mean households will be paid to reduce their energy usage at peak times.
The ESO said that households would receive a text message the day ahead of a looming energy shortage that would ask people to use their electricity outside of peak early evening hours.
The National Grid has said that the household incentives scheme could save around 2 gigawatts of energy savings, enough to power around 600,000 homes and flats
A trial earlier this year with Octopus Energy which paid consumers to reduce their usage.
The energy firm’s scheme, which called named the test as a “Big Dirty Turn Down” trial, is now being rolled out across the country.
The ESO’s director of corporate affairs, Jake Rigg, 说: “The demand flexibility service is a first of its kind and a smart way for signed-up consumers in homes and businesses to save money and back Britain.
“If you put your washing machine or other electrical appliances on at night instead of the peak in the early evening, you can get some money back when we all need it.
“The service is due to launch in November, so watch out for further details soon.
“This really is a window into the future where a flexible energy system will be cleaner and lower cost to alternatives.”
To try and avoid the black outs, coal power stations owned by Drax, EDF and Uniper have been told to keep five of their units open and on standby which would also be able to provide 2 gigawatts of energy.
This would help bridge the gap between the power that is normally supplied by France, Belgium and the Netherlands.
An Ofgem spokesperson said: “We welcome the report from National Grid today. We have one of the most reliable energy systems in the world and we are in a favourable position.
“然而, it is incumbent on a responsible and prudent energy sector to ensure the right contingency measures are in place, which is why we are working with the government, National Grid and key partners to protect consumers, so that Great Britain is fully prepared for any challenges this winter.”
Why could there be blackouts this winter?
There has been unprecedented turmoil in energy markets 在欧洲, due to shortfalls in gas caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
大约 40% of the UK’s electricity supply is generated from gas.
The National Grid says we are expecting a “challenging” winter and it is planning for what would happen if we’re unable to import electricity from Europe meant the UK didn’t get enough gas.
Previously the National Grid has always said that if there were planned blackouts, that these would only affect big business and not households.
To tackle a loss of imports from France, Belgium and the Netherlands, there are two gigawatts of coal-fired power plants on stand-by to fire up if needed to meet demand.
When could they happen?
If there are days this winter that are cold – creating high demand and low levels of wind power – then National Grid may need to interrupt supply for limited periods.
The worst period for supply is likely to be throughout December to mid-January, excluding the Christmas period.
The National Grid says that they would be planned three-hour blackouts in some areas.
The outages would be at peak times, which means power cuts could be in the evenings.
The number of people left without electricity would depend on how many gas power stations would be forced to shut down because there is not enough gas.
Electricity generators would choose where to have outages based on how much supply they need to cut.
It means if there are planned power cuts then they would be in one area at a time, not the whole of the UK.
It did warn that this is a worst case scenario.
和, I’ll be paid to use less electricity?
People are being encouraged to sign up with their electricity supplier to a scheme which will give them money back on their bills to shift their use of power away from times of high demand to help prevent blackouts.
Households could be paid to put their washing machines or dishwashers overnight.
此外, larger businesses will be paid for reducing demand, for example by shifting their times of energy use or switching to batteries or generators in peak times.
Don’t energy firms already offer cheaper tariffs for off-peak supplies?
是的, that’s right. Some energy firms offer off-peak usage tariffs which are cheaper at night. These are usually called Economy 7 tariffs.
It means that households have to run appliances or charge electric cars during off-peak times.
Energy firms are expected to offer their own schemes.
例如, Ovo has announced its plans and says customers who opt in could save £100 on bills.
Octopus energy has already been trialling a scheme which pays customers to cutting usage.