Gas-fired power stations could be closed to ration energy supplies as part of contingency plans to avoid widespread blackouts this winter, insiders have warned.
Sources at two power stations, along with government officials, said they were preparing for ‘wargame’ contingency plans next month and had been urged to review measures to keep the lights on ignited in the worst-case scenario of dangerously low supplies.
They suggested drills could take place in September and October and warned they could be asked to switch off service stations to reduce high network demand.
These efforts go far beyond standard winter resilience planning, reflecting the higher risk in the context of the worsening energy crisis, and are more detailed than presented in contingency planning documents. current, insiders said.
“We are playing very serious scenarios. These are not unlikely scenarios,” said a senior official involved in energy planning.
Emergency communications plans are needed if the government and National Grid are to take greater control of electricity generation in the UK, which normally only happens if there is a high risk of blackouts extended domestics.
“The reality is that the winter is going to be very tight,” said Nick Wye, director of energy consultancy Waters Wye Associates.
“If it is very cold for an extended period, we can expect tightness, which can lead to customers being asked to reduce or cut off their supplies,” he added.
These include asking gas-fired power generators to ‘unload’ – a process that involves power stations shutting down or limiting their operations in a bid to ease the strain on energy grids by reducing consumption gas.
Asked about the plans, a spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: ‘We have one of the most reliable and diverse energy systems in the world, and unlike the Europe, we are not dependent on Russian energy imports, which means households, businesses and industry can be sure they will get the electricity and gas they need.
However, they did not deny that the UK faced an increased risk of an energy crisis, with a greater likelihood of multi-day blackouts for large numbers of consumers.
They also declined to comment on the activities of the UK and Ireland gas contingency planning group, which two people familiar with the group’s activities said held additional meetings in a bid to create new plans. for emergency drills.
The British government has emphasized Britain’s relatively low dependence on Russian gas compared to that of its continental European neighbours. However, there is a certain interdependence between the UK and Europe in the way their electricity is supplied.
The UK receives electricity through interconnectors from Norway and France, which power millions of homes each year, according to National Grid.
“Norway has said it may have to ration electricity exports, and France’s output is down because nuclear plants are out of service or limited because they need critical maintenance,” he said. warned a senior official working on UK energy resilience. “This should be of concern to the UK, as it has been the main top-up power for our network in times of crisis.”
Since the closure of the Rough subsea gas storage site, the UK has only had onshore storage for 10 days of gas, according to industry experts.
That wouldn’t be enough to avoid energy rationing, which could amount to limited use for more than six hours a day, officials said. “Just forget about working from home, it could be a ‘home unplug’ in January,” one said, adding, “There’s no easy way to store enough energy to allow us to continue.”
If power supplies to Norway and France are tight and gas storage is low, there is little the UK can do to avoid power rationing, generators have said. electricity and government sources.
“Gensets are nervous,” Mr. Wye said. “Gas storage can’t do much. Its volume is simply not large enough to meet the strong domestic demand for gas and the additional demand for electricity generation. It’s just not big enough. That’s not the answer.
Officials and ministers have also held meetings in recent days to discuss the risk of massive non-payment of energy bills by consumers, industry sources said. The Independent.
It comes as energy price forecasts suggest the UK’s average energy bill could top £5,000 next year, and amid warnings of a prolonged recession.
Electricity producers have also asked the government to review the caps imposed on the emissions they produce when burning fossil fuels.
Industry sources said The Independent there was a risk that they would have to lower their tools in order to avoid violating strict legal limits on the emissions they could produce this winter.