British households could face a series of power cuts this winter if energy supplies — including gas imports from continental Europe — are severely constrained, according to the National Grid.
The organization — which oversees the U.K.’s power network — said that while it expects supply to keep up with demand this winter under its base case, a host of mitigating measures will still be needed to keep the lights on.
It is unveiling a new “Demand Flexibility Service” on November 1 that will encourage businesses and consumers to use power outside of peak demand periods.
The details come in two National Grid publications known as the “Winter Outlook,” covering both electricity and gas supply. The plan is particularly closely watched this year amid the Europe-wide squeeze on energy supply worsened by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The outlooks map out how the U.K. would cope without any electricity imports from France, the Netherlands and Belgium, a scenario under which the Grid plans to deploy a host of “mitigation strategies,” including keeping coal-fired power stations running and kicking the new Demand Flexibility Service into gear. “By securing 4[gigawatts] through these actions, we would maintain adequate margins and mitigate impacts on customers,” the ESO predicts.
Without the scheme, however, the Grid is braced for cold days and days without wind to pose a particular challenge to supply. In that scenario, where demand is likely to be higher and supply from renewables lower, the Grid says there is “the potential to need to interrupt supply to some customers for limited periods of time in a managed and controlled manner. However, we expect the mitigations outlined above to be effective.”
The Grid has also tried to map out a second “more extreme” scenario, in which the energy crisis in Europe escalates to such a point “that there is insufficient gas supply available in Great Britain” as well as no electricity available to import from the Continent.
While it calls this scenario “unlikely,” the Grid said it would “further erode electricity supply margins, potentially leading to interruptions to customers for periods.”
It vowed: “All possible mitigating strategies, including our new measures, would be deployed to minimize the disruption.” The Times reported Thursday that households could have electricity cut off for three hours at a time if there is not enough gas to supply power plants.
A spokesperson for the U.K. government said: “The UK has a secure and diverse energy system. We are confident in our plans to protect households and businesses in the full range of scenarios this winter, in light of Russia’s illegal war in Ukraine.
“To strengthen this position further, we have put plans in place to secure supply and National Grid, working alongside energy suppliers and Ofgem, will launch a voluntary service to reward users who reduce demand at peak times.”
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