Fears six million households 'could see power cuts lasting more than a month' in winter

30 May 2022, 05:57

Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng wants coal-fired stations to stay open
Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng wants coal-fired stations to stay open. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Coal-fired power stations have been asked to stay open amid fears that as many as six million households could see power cuts this winter.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Ministers have reportedly been warned that modelling shows a "reasonable" worst case scenario of major gas shortages later this year if Russia keeps cutting off supplies to Europe.

Limits designed to ration supply could see limits imposed on industrial use of gas, causing electricity shortages for six million homes.

The rationing, which could last for more than a month, could be imposed in the morning and evening peaks, the Times said.

That modelling applies to a scenario where Russia cuts off all supplies to the EU over the Western response to its invasion of Ukraine, with fears Moscow will further leverage its position as a key energy supplier to the continent.

A Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy spokesperson said the UK "has no issues with either gas or electricity supply, and the Government is fully prepared for any scenario, even those that are extreme and very unlikely to pass".

Power stations like Drax have been asked to stay open
Power stations like Drax have been asked to stay open. Picture: Alamy

They added: "Thanks to a massive £90 billion investment in renewable energy in the last decade, we have one of the most reliable and diverse energy systems in the world, and unlike Europe, we are not dependent on Russian energy imports."

In response to the potential threat to energy supply, business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has asked for coal-fired power stations to stay open and push back their scheduled shutdowns.

Read more: Owner of seven homes set to receive £2.8k from Sunak's rebate says he'll keep the cash

Power stations in Drax, in North Yorkshire, Ratcliffe, in Nottinghamshire, and West Burton, in Lincolnshire, were due to close in September but have been asked to stay open after Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

A Government spokesperson said: "It is only right that we explore a wide range of options to further bolster our energy security and domestic supply - bringing down costs in the long-term.

"While there is no shortage of supply, we may need to make our remaining coal-fired power stations available to provide additional back-up electricity this coming winter if needed.

Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng wants to delay the planned closure of some coal-fired plants
Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng wants to delay the planned closure of some coal-fired plants. Picture: Alamy

"It remains our firm commitment to end the use of coal power by October 2024."

The ongoing energy crisis has seen bills shoot up after a cold winter in Europe, a hot period across Asia and reduced gas exports from Russia.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak confirmed last week that households will get a £400 discount in their energy bills from October, which will not need to be paid back.

Read more: Windfall tax on energy firms explained: How do I get Rishi Sunak's new £400 discount?

Ofgem, the energy regulator, is expecting the price cap on bills to rise by almost £1,000 to the "region" of £2,800 that month.

"I am afraid to say conditions have worsened in the global gas market since Russia's invasion of Ukraine," Ofgem chief executive Jonathan Brearley told MPs on the House of Commons Business Committee earlier in May.

"Gas prices are higher and highly volatile. At times they have now reached over 10 times their normal level.

"I know this is a very distressing time for customers but I do need to be clear with this committee, with customers and with the Government about the likely price implications for October."