UK power sector to ‘wargame’ energy rationing amid threat of days-long blackouts

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Insiders warn that gas-fired power plants could be shut down to ration power supplies as part of contingency plans to prevent massive blackouts this winter.

Sources at the two power plants, along with government officials, said they are preparing for an emergency plan next month and have been asked to review measures to keep Britain’s light on in a worst-case scenario of dangerously low supplies.

They suggested drills could take place in September and October and warned they could be asked to turn off gas stations to ease high demand on the network.

These efforts go far beyond standard winter resilience planning, reflecting higher risk amid a worsening energy crisis, and are more detailed than what is outlined in current contingency planning documents, insiders say.

“We are developing very serious scenarios. These are not unlikely scenarios,” said one senior energy planner.

Emergency communications plans are needed if the government and the National Grid need to assume greater control over UK electricity generation, which usually only happens when there is a high risk of long domestic power outages.

“The reality is that the winter will be very difficult,” said Nick Wye, director of energy consultancy Waters Wye Associates.

“If it gets very cold for an extended period, we can expect outages, which could result in customers being asked to reduce or stop deliveries,” he added.

This includes asking gas generators to “shed load,” a process that involves shutting down power plants or limiting their operation in an attempt to reduce the load on power grids by reducing gas consumption.

Asked about plans, a spokesman for the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “We have one of the most reliable and diverse energy systems in the world and, unlike Europe, we are not dependent on energy imports from Russia, i.e. households, businesses and industry can be sure that 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 a large number of consumers.

They also declined to comment on the activities of the British and Irish emergency gas planning team, which, according to two people familiar with the group’s activities, is holding additional meetings to develop new plans for emergency exercises.

The UK government is emphasizing Britain’s relatively low dependence on Russian gas compared to its continental European neighbors. However, there is some interdependence between the UK and Europe in how they are supplied with electricity.

The UK receives some of its electricity through interconnecting lines from Norway and France that power millions of homes each year, according to National Grid.

“Norway has said it may have to ration electricity exports, and France’s output has plummeted because nuclear power plants have failed or are limited because they need critical maintenance work,” warned one senior official working over the UK’s energy sustainability. “This should be of concern to the UK as it has been a key force to replenish our network during difficult times.”

The UK has only 10 days of gas left onshore since the Rough offshore gas storage facility closed, industry experts said.

This will not be enough to prevent energy rationing, which could lead to limited use of more than six hours a day, officials said. “Forget just working from home, it could be a ‘home shutdown’ in January,” one said, adding, “There’s no easy way to build up enough energy for us to keep working.”

If electricity supplies from Norway and France are cut and gas supplies run out, there is little the UK can do to avoid energy rationing, power producers and government sources say.

“Electricity producers are nervous,” Mr. Wye said. “Gas storage can only do so much. Its volume is simply not enough to meet the high domestic demand for gas plus the additional demand for electricity. It’s just not big enough. This is not an answer”.

Officials and ministers have also held meetings in recent days to discuss the risk of mass non-payment of electricity bills by consumers, industry sources said. Granthshala.

This comes as energy price forecasts suggest the average UK electricity bill could top £5,000 next year, and amid warnings of a protracted recession.

Electricity producers have also asked the government to reconsider limits on the emissions they produce from burning fossil fuels.

This was reported by sources in the industry. Granthshala there was a risk that they might have to turn off the tools to avoid violating the stringent legal limits on the emissions they could produce this winter.

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