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Six million UK homes could face power cuts this winter, as energy crisis worsens

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Millions of UK households could face blackouts this winter, ministers have been warned, as they look to bolster electricity supplies by prolonging the life of coal and nuclear power stations.

The UK is preparing for a harsh winter, as the war in Ukraine drags on and energy prices continue to soar.

In order to prepare for a “reasonable” worst-case scenario, Whitehall officials have drawn up a plan for the winter that could lead to the rationing of electricity for up to six million homes at the start of 2023, should Russia cut off all gas supplies to the EU. Earlier this month, Ofgem warned of a likely energy price cap increase “in the region of £2,800”.

The curbs could be imposed on industrial use of gas, including on gas-fired power stations, and may last for more than a month, mostly at peaks in the morning and evening.

A Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy spokesperson told the PA news agency 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".

“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,” the spokesperson added, “and unlike Europe, we are not dependent on Russian energy imports.”

Nonetheless, the fear of future gas shortages has led ministers to delay the planned closures of coal-fired generators in Drax, Ratcliffe and West Burton. Moreover,  Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng is also reportedly considering extending the life of the Hinkley Point B nuclear power plant as a precautionary measure.

"While there is no shortage of supply, we may need to make our remaining coal-fired power stations available to provide additional backup electricity this coming winter if needed,” a government spokesperson said.

Hinkley Point B started generating electricity in 1976 and since then has produced more than 300 terawatt-hours of energy – an amount that would meet the electricity requirements of every home in the UK for three years.

However, Kwarteng was firm in stating that the extension of the nuclear power plant would only go forward if the facility proves it complies with safety certification. The plant was originally scheduled to move into decommissioning within two years in November 2020.

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

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