Government denies UK is running out of gas

22 March 2013
By Edd Gent
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A Department of Energy and Climate Change spokeswoman has denied the UK is close to running out of gas

A Department of Energy and Climate Change spokeswoman has denied the UK is close to running out of gas

The Government has denied that the UK is on the brink of running out of gas following weeks of unusually cold weather.

It had been reported that there were only two days' worth of gas left in reserve as a result of the cold snap, with gas stocks 10 per cent full, compared to 49 per cent this time last year.

But a Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) spokeswoman said: "Protracted cold weather increases demand but the UK gas market is responsive and our gas needs are continuing to be met.

"Gas storage would never be the sole source of gas meeting our needs, so it is misleading to talk purely about how many days' supply is in storage."

She said that while half of the nation's gas needs were supplied from the North Sea, there were also pipelines from Norway and elsewhere in Europe, shipments of liquefied natural gas and storage.

"All can and are providing significant gas to meet the UK's needs," the spokeswoman added.

"Storage levels are low at the moment, as you'd expect towards the end of winter, and the UK gas market is tight.

"But the market is responding as it is designed to do; gas prices are rising and supply is being maintained accordingly. For example in recent weeks gas has been flowing in from continental Europe in high volumes.

"We are in close contact with National Grid, who are able to step into the market to source gas and increase incentives on gas suppliers if they think there is a risk of a supply shortfall."

A DECC update on gas prices and bills is due to be published next Wednesday.

"We're doing everything we can to minimise the impact for consumers," the spokeswoman added.

The head of energy giant SSE has also warned of the "very real risk" of the lights going out in Britain.

Ian Marchant said the Government was underestimating the problem, as he announced plans to cut back on power generation at five sites because the stations are either uneconomic or coming to the end of their lives.

He said: "It appears the Government is significantly underestimating the scale of the capacity crunch facing the UK in the next three years and there is a very real risk of the lights going out as a result."

He said the energy watchdog Ofgem had recently expressed real concern about the tightening of the UK's generation capacity margin that would follow expected plant closures in the next few years, predicting a 1:12 chance of the lights going out.

"It is unlikely that the majority of the reductions in generation capacity and the delays to new investment we have announced today will have been included in this analysis, which highlights that the situation is likely to be even more critical than even they have predicted."

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