Six million homes could face power cuts this winter if the Russia standoff escalates, ministers have been warned.
The grim picture is painted in a ‘reasonable worst case scenario’ prepared for the government.
It predicts major gas shortages at the turn of the year if Russia cuts off more supplies to the EU, with plans drawn up to ration electricity if the situation deteriorates.
According to the details seen by The Times, limits could need to be imposed on industrial use of gas, including on gas-fired power stations.
The threat has prompted Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng to ask Britain’s coal-fired power stations to delay their planned closures.
A Business Department spokesperson insisted 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’.
Although the UK uses very little oil or gas from Russia, it would be left scrambling for supplies against other European countries if Vladimir Putin turned off the taps.
According to the details seen by The Times, limits could need to be imposed on industrial use of gas, including on gas-fired power stations
The threat has prompted Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng to ask Britain’s coal-fired power stations to delay their planned closures
But ministers have apparently been told that six million homes could see their electricity rationed in curbs that may last more than a month.
Contingency measures could mean power being turned off on weekdays between 7am and 10am, and between 4pm and 9pm. Gas supplies to homes would not be hit.
There is a worst-case scenario in which Russia cuts off all supplies to the EU, which could result in three months of rationing covering weekdays and weekends.
Putin has been threatening to pull the plug if countries refuse to pay for gas in roubles – although Russia is heavily reliant on income from energy sales.
A Government spokesman said the request for the power stations in Drax, Ratcliffe and West Burton, which were due to shut down in September, to stay open was made ‘in light’ of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
‘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,’ the spokesperson said.
‘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.
‘It remains our firm commitment to end the use of coal power by October 2024.’
A No10 spokesman said the Government does not expect the UK to experience power cuts this winter, or the need for energy rationing.
He said: ‘I think you would expect Government to look at a range of scenarios to ensure plans are robust, no matter how unlikely they are to pass. Neither the Government or National Grid expect power cuts this winter.
‘You will know that we are in a fortunate position, we are not dependent on Russian energy imports and have one of the most reliable and diverse energy systems.’
Asked about energy rationing, he added: ‘We don’t expect energy rationing this winter. Again, we are in a different position to other countries in that we are not as dependent on Russian energy as some. You will know that we have access to our own North Sea gas reserves, and imports from other reliable partners.
‘But again, I think you would expect us to plan for all scenarios.’
In a round of interviews this morning, culture minister Chris Philp insisted the government was taking ‘sensible precautionary measures’.
‘I think what the Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng did last week was take some sensible precautionary measures to guard against a potential worst case scenario, he asked the three remaining coal fired power station operators to just keep their power stations available beyond the point of which they were due to be switched off,’ he told Times Radio.
‘And I think he’s considering whether Hinkley B, the large nuclear power station might continue beyond its planned end of life as well.
‘That’s a sensible precautionary measure, given that gas supply coming out of Russia, and Ukraine is for obvious reasons, so heavily disrupted and we do, of course, use quite a lot of gas to generate electricity.
‘Only a very small proportion of that, of course, comes from Russia, a lot of ours comes from Norway and in the form of liquefied natural gas.
‘But of course, disruption to the global gas market will have a knock on effect that may affect the gas that we consume domestically in the United Kingdom.’
The Business Department spokesperson said: ‘Thanks to a massive £90billion investment in renewable energy in the last decade, we have one of the most reliable and diverse energy systems in the world and Europe, we are not dependent on Russian energy imports.’
Vladimir Putin has been threatening to pull the plug if countries refuse to pay for gas in roubles – although Russia is heavily reliant on income from energy sales