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British grid operator preparing for possibility of winter power cuts

British Prime Minister Liz Truss vowed from the campaign trail to keep the lights on, but the war in Ukraine has exposed the risk of severe power shortages. Photo by Hugo Philpott/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/04a5efa74d07f20215af6873617df364/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
British Prime Minister Liz Truss vowed from the campaign trail to keep the lights on, but the war in Ukraine has exposed the risk of severe power shortages. Photo by Hugo Philpott/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 6 (UPI) -- The British grid operator said Thursday that customers could experience short-term outages during the winter in the event of severe limits on volumes of natural gas but added that such an event is unlikely.

Western sanctions imposed on Russia for the February invasion of Ukraine target the exports of major commodities such as crude oil and natural gas. The Kremlin has responded with threats to cut off supplies to the region.

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The National Grid, tasked with keeping power supplied to the United Kingdom, said the invasion of Ukraine has upended global energy markets and should the Kremlin tighten supplies even further, it would mean short-term power disruptions for the upcoming winter heating season.

The grid operator, however, stressed that such an occurrence was unlikely and that its base-case estimates point to few problems during the winter months. Nevertheless, with Russian President Vladimir Putin seemingly backed into a corner due to recent territorial losses in Ukraine, the sector is on guard for extremes.

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"We're heading into winter in an unprecedented situation," a senior industry source told The Guardian newspaper. "Even during the Cold War, the Soviet Union kept the gas flowing so it's very unpredictable."

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British Prime Minister Liz Truss vowed on the campaign trail this year that there would be no problems this winter, but British dependency on natural gas means future problems may be unavoidable.

Industry regulator Ofgem said the Britain's grid is one of the world's most reliable, though it was resolved to keep the lights on by working with the government, the National Grid and other partners.

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The government is "confident in our plans to protect households and businesses in the full range of scenarios this winter," a spokesperson said, according to the BBC.

Regional powers are scrambling to ensure adequate supplies during the winter as the Russian war in Ukraine enters its seventh month. Germany, for example, said it would hold off on abandoning nuclear power to stave off an energy emergency.

The National Grid said it was looking to coal power to help offset any winter issues and will introduce a flexibility protocol in November meant to encourage consumers to favor non-peak hours as away to conserve energy.

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Unlike its counterparts in the European Union that depend heavily on Russia, Great Britain relies on reserves in the North Sea for most of its natural gas.

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