National Grid says UK will lose power if Russia stops gas and we have cold snap

Millions of Brits have been warned to brace for blackouts this winter if power plants can’t get enough gas to keep running, the National Grid has said.

Households are being encouraged to ‘save money and back Britain’ by using more energy during off-peak times.

People are being warned that in the ‘unlikely’ scenario, Brits could face three-hour planned outages, to stop the grid collapsing.

It would be the first time since the 1970s that planned blackouts would take place, which was during the miners strikes and the oil crisis.

There have also been major unplanned outages in storms, including in 1987 when over 1.5 million people were left in the dark.

In order to prevent planned power cuts, households will be paid to turn down their heating and not use their washing machines at peak time to save the country as much energy as possible.

Details of how much cash households will receive for turning down their appliances will be given 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”. 

But the lights will stay on this winter unless the gas-fired power plants that produced 43% of Britain’s electricity over the last year cannot get enough gas to continue operating.


It is the most dire of three possible scenarios that the ESO laid out on Thursday for how Britain’s electricity grid might cope with the worst global energy crisis for decades.

In the other two scenarios, the operator hopes that by paying people to charge their electric cars at off-peak times and firing up backup coal plants it can offset the risk of blackouts.

The margins between peak demand and power supply are expected to be sufficient and similar to recent years in the National Grid Electricity System Operator’s (ESO) base case scenario for this winter.

But in the face of the “challenging” winter facing European energy supplies following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the grid operator is also planning for what would happen if there were no imports of electricity from Europe.

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.

National Grid Gas Transmission separately said that while gas demand will increase this winter, it expects Britain to be able to get enough gas to take it through a Beast from the East scenario or a long, cold winter.

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 tend to consume a fifth of their daily energy between 4pm and 7pm, according to data from Ovo Energy. The supplier on Thursday said its customers could save £100 if they signed up to use energy at off-peak times.

In addition, 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.

The ”demand flexibility service’ will run from November to March, and it is expected to swing into action 12 times whatever happens to ensure people get rewarded for being part of the scheme – with additional use if needed to protect supplies.

It is hoped it will deliver 2GW of power savings to balance supply and demand.

The ESO’s director of corporate affairs, Jake Rigg, said: ‘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.

Without the scheme, there might be days when it was cold and still – creating high demand and low levels of wind power – when there would be a potential need to interrupt supply to some customers for limited periods, National Grid ESO’s winter outlook said.

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