Britain downplays threat of winter energy blackouts | The Citizen

Britain on Friday downplayed a warning of energy blackouts this winter as the Ukraine war hits gas imports.

Households face possible rolling three-hour power cuts if imports run extremely low, the nation’s power operator National Grid warned Thursday in a worst-case scenario.

The threat of winter blackouts, similar to those seen in the early 1970s, was plastered across newspaper front pages Friday.

New Prime Minister Liz Truss, already under fierce pressure over her government’s debt-fuelled tax cut plans, insisted the UK has “good energy supplies”.

But she stopped short of guaranteeing no blackouts.

Truss has meanwhile ruled out an official energy-saving campaign to encourage less consumption.

“Ministers are not launching a public information campaign and any claim otherwise is untrue,” a government spokesman said Friday.

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The Times newspaper reported that the government had been readying a winter campaign that was blocked by Downing Street.

Straight after her appointment as PM last month, Truss unveiled a freeze on surging electricity and gas prices. 

A blackout would be more drastic than EU plans for an energy-saving initiative this year to help its member nations survive winter without Russian energy.

– ‘No energy rationing’ –

UK climate minister Graham Stuart indicated his government would not follow suit.

“We’re… hesitant to tell people what they should do when we’re not a nanny-state government,” he told a London radio station.

“What we are prepared to do is talk to the big energy users and talk to consumers with smart technology about rewarding them for reducing energy at the peak times.”

He said the state was not planning energy rationing.

“It is not our intention to have it, and we’re doing everything possible… that it should not happen.”

Stuart told Sky News that the government did not expect power cuts.

But he also sounded a cautious note.

“You’ve seen all sorts of things happening in recent weeks and… we plan for all eventualities.”

Britain is “in a pretty good position compared to other European neighbours” because it was less reliant on Russian gas, he insisted.

Britain, however, relies on gas to create a large proportion of electricity and is therefore particularly exposed to the soaring prices in the wake of Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

“The UK has a secure and diverse energy system,” the government spokesman added.

“We have plans to protect households and businesses in the full range of scenarios this winter, in light of Russia’s illegal war in Ukraine.”

The UK “will continue to work internationally on tackling rising energy prices and ensuring security of supply”.

Gas-fired power plants produce just over 40 percent of Britain’s electricity requirements.

Aberdeen University’s Professor John Underhill said that “although the UK is arguably in a better position that other parts of Europe” owing to its own offshore energy resources, it was still reliant on favourable weather.

“We still rely on… mild weather over the winter to ensure that we don’t have rationing or blackouts of the type that occurred” almost 50 years ago.

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