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Energy blackouts this winter ‘extremely unlikely’, says Zahawi

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It is “extremely unlikely” that plans to enforce a series of rolling blackouts this winter to conserve energy will be put in place, former chancellor Nadhim Zahawi has said..

Speaking to Sky News yesterday, former chancellor of the exchequor Nadhim Zahawi said that while it is “only right that we plan for every scenario”, he did not expect the emergency plans to be put in motion.

Last week, the National Grid ESO admitted that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will likely see the UK facing a “challenging winter” with regards to its energy supplies.

It raised the possibility of planned three-hour electricity blackouts that would see supplies cut off at peak times in order to ensure the grid does not collapse.

These would be the UK’s first planned blackouts since the 1970s, when such emergency measures were instituted in response to the miners’ strikes of 1972 and 1974 and the OPEC oil crisis of 1973.

Despite plans to close all of the UK’s unabated coal power by October 2024, National Grid ESO has secured three contracts with coal generators to keep five coal units open and on standby this winter, with the ability to generate approximately 2GW of additional power if needed.

In his TV interview, Zahawi attempted to calm fears by playing down the likelihood of an emergency blackout scenario.

“We’ve got the second largest LNG (liquefied natural gas) processing infrastructure in Europe,” he said.

“Half of our gas we produce here at home, we want to go further – this year we’ve increased our output by 26 per cent on gas. We’ve got interconnectors with our neighbours.

“Now, what the National Grid is saying is the extremely unlikely scenario where there are issues in Europe with the interconnectors and a very cold snap, so it’s extremely unlikely.

“It’s only right that we plan for every scenario. All I would say is we have a buffer, the same buffer as last year, and so I’m confident that come Christmas, come the cold weather, we will continue to be in that resilient place, but it’s only right we have looked at every scenario.”

Last week, Liz Truss ruled out a £15m campaign backed by Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg to offer people advice on how to save energy over the winter. It included measures designed to help people save up to £300 a year, including lowering the temperature of their boiler, turning off radiators in empty rooms and advising people to turn off the heating when they go out.

Truss was said to be “ideologically opposed” to the campaign as it could be perceived as too interventionist.

Pressed about Rees-Mogg’s support for the campaign, Zahawi said: “The question you ask is about spending £14m [sic] on a campaign. That I think is the wrong thing.

“The National Grid and Ofgem and actually a number of the energy providers are using the direct communication with households to be able to say, ‘Here are some measures you can take’.”

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