Britons have been told that there could be blackouts lasting 10 hours this winter if imports from Europe are cut due to its own shortages, which could be a “very possible” scenario according to energy analysts. As the Russian President continues to bleed Europe dry, the threat of energy supply shortages has been sent soaring this winter while demand is high. Meanwhile, Britain exchanges electricity with other countries on the continent and imports gas, also coming under pressure due to drought in Norway and nuclear issues in France.
Leading energy analysts LCP, when exploring the “very possible scenario” that energy shortages in Europe would hinder the chances of the UK’s electricity needs being met, found that power supplies could fail to match the demand for a whole 10 hours this winter, according to a report in the Telegraph.
Luckily, the move by ministers not to close coal-fired power stations will avoid seeing this figure surge to a staggering 29 hours, the analysts said.
But National Grid Electricity System Operator, which released an early provision forecast in July, only suspected that the power outage would last only six minutes, although its analysis makes the assumption that interconnectors with Europe will send over 5.7 Gigawatts of electicity when the UK is in need.
Since then, fears that crucial imports could be slashed have soared as France’s power output plummets, while the UK’s biggest importer of gas, Norway, has also threatened to limit its exports to Britain amid Europe’s energy crunch.
Now, National Grid is set to give an updated outlook following criticisms that it did not take into account the stress on the European system.
The organisation may also have to “take drastic action and disconnect customers, such as energy-intensive industries, from the grid” if it fails to try and balance the system when it comes under stress.
Chris Matson, partner at LCP, said: “As Europe baked during this summer’s heatwave, it was simultaneously sowing the seeds for further pain this winter.
“As a result of the extreme droughts and the lack of water that is hitting hydroelectric systems in key interconnector markets like Norway, coupled with the issues we are seeing in France with their nuclear reactors, there are significant doubts about the availability of electricity coming into GB from the continent which is critical to our security of supply.”
And despite France’s plummeting nuclear power output, which was down 40 percent in August due to cracks forming in its ageing reactors, the UK has struck an energy cooperation agreement in a bid to keep the lights on.
A Downing Street spokesperson said: “As our people face a difficult winter with huge uncertainty of energy supply and the cost of living, the Prime Minister and President Macron underscored the importance of working together to end reliance on Russian energy and strengthen energy security.”
But Simon Cran-McGreehin, head of analysis at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, warned that this agreement will not avoid a “rough winter”.
He told Express.co.uk: “Increased energy cooperation between the UK and France would be another important tool for helping to maintain energy supplies this winter, but the gas crisis is so severe that there can be no guarantees.
“National Grid and other system operators will get us through the winter, with a mixture of power sources including our renewables that are not limited by fossil fuel supplies, but it might be rough.
“There is, literally, a war going on, and any issues this winter would be a consequence of our dependence on gas being exploited by Russia, and of decisions by the UK and the EU to oppose Russian aggression by getting off gas.”
Meanwhile in Norway, the UK’s primary gas supplier responsible for about 60 percent of the country’s total demand, a drought slashed the country’s hydroelectric power output. This has forced Oslo to consider limiting its exports to Britain amid concerns over its own supply crunch. The nation has also been sending more gas to mainland Europe to help it account for slash Russian supplies.
Torbjorn Soltvedt, the principal analyst for consultancy firm Verisk Maplecroft, has warned that both of these factors could be a worry for Britain. He told Express.co.uk: “You have European counties trying to reduce their reliance on Russian gas, and as a result of that, Norway has increased its supply of gas to the UK and Europe.
“Norway is one of the countries that had a very dry summer, so water levels are much lower in terms of hydropower, so Norway has had less hydropower, which means that Norway has had to use more of its own gas which in turn means less gas to export.”
However, National Grid has stressed that it will bring in measures such as paying households to use electricity outside of peak hours in a bid to swerve blackouts, although leading energy firms have warned that this may not work. It has also been gearing up for a period of four days of planned blackouts under a “worst-case scenario”, although it says this would be highly unlikely.
The UK’s reliability standards allow for up to three hours each year when power demand exceeds supply, and in which instance National Grid steps in to try and balance the system by using tactics like lowering the voltage or by getting generators to boost output.
While LCP has warned blackouts could last up to 10 hours, National Grid says that shortages can normally be managed without having a significant impact on consumers.
A National Grid ESO spokesman said: “We have published an early view of winter outlook to help the industry prepare for this winter.
“In early autumn we will publish a full winter outlook that will be based on verifiable market data as well as extensive engagement with stakeholders, including system operators in other countries, to ensure our analysis is as robust as possible.”