Government preparing for ‘organised blackouts’ this winter in energy shortage ‘worst case scenario’

·3-min read
An aerial landscape view of Drax Power Station in North Yorkshire emitting carbon dioxide pollution into the atmosphere
Drax Power Station in North Yorkshire. (Getty)

A minister has admitted this winter is "not going to be easy” following reports the government is preparing for days of organised blackouts under a "reasonable worst-case scenario" for energy shortages.

Households and businesses could be subjected to planned power outages if cold temperatures combine with reduced imports from Europe, according to Bloomberg UK.

Bloomberg reported the government has an emergency plan for a shortfall of around a sixth of peak energy demand, which could see supplies turned off for four days in January.

When asked on Wednesday if people should brace for blackouts, education secretary James Cleverly said the UK is “in a better position than many in terms of our domestic energy production”, but conceded “it’s not going to be easy”.

He told Sky News: “We’ve got to understand that we are in a global market, we are in a global energy market and the things which are affecting us are affecting everyone around the world.

“We are in a better position than many in terms of our domestic energy production and there is every reason to believe that we can get through this.

“It’s not going to be easy, but we are resilient, we’ve seen through the COVID situation, we are a resourceful, resilient, agile country and will continue to be so.”

Read more: More than half of Britons think non-payment of energy bills ‘justified’ as cost-of-living crisis bites

Electric bill charges paper form on the table
Energy bills are soaring in the UK. (Getty)

It comes amid turmoil in energy markets after Russia reduced gas flows to Europe in response to sanctions following its invasion of Ukraine in February.

The Nord Stream 1 pipeline that brings Russian gas to Europe is currently running at 20% of its maximum capacity.

While the UK imports very little of its gas from Russia, the reduction is putting vast pressure on supplies across Europe including from Norway where the UK sources roughly a third of its gas.

Watch: I'd raise cost-of-living help by a few hundred pounds, says Sunak

The energy crisis has led to a forecast that fuel bills will reach £4,266 a year from next January.

Analysts Cornwall Insight said energy bills will reach £3,582 per year for the average household from October, up from £1,971 today, and then rise to £4,266 from January and £4,427 from next April.

Energy bills are forecast to surge this winter (Yahoo News UK/ Flourish)
Energy bills are forecast to surge this winter (Yahoo News UK/ Flourish)

Earlier this year, the government refused to promise there would not be power cuts this winter, after reports it was considering plans to ration electricity.

A Number 10 spokesperson said: "I think you would expect government to look at a range of scenarios to ensure plans are robust, no matter how unlikely they are to pass. Neither the government or National Grid expect power cuts this winter.

"You will know that we are in a fortunate position, we are not dependent on Russian energy imports and have one of the most reliable and diverse energy systems."

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European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen has urged member nations to reduce natural gas consumption by at least 15% until spring in order to deal with reduced Russian supplies.

She said: “Russia is blackmailing us. Russia is using energy as a weapon.

“And therefore in any event, whether a partial major cutoff of Russian gas or a total cutoff of Russian gas, Europe needs to be ready.”

The dire energy cap predictions have heaped renewed pressure on Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak, one of whom will be announced as the new Conservative Party leader and prime minister on 5 September.

Both are coming in for sustained criticism of their proposals to tackle the UK's current cost of living crisis.