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October 10, 2022

Can we get through the Winter without power cuts?

Can we get through the Winter without power cuts?

National Grid have just released their Winter Outlook for 2022/23 and they admit a possibility that in cold weather we might not have enough gas and power stations would have to be cut off. This in turn could lead to black outs.

The probability of black outs is largely related to the weather. Cold still weather poses the biggest risk:-

1. Gas demand is inversely related to Temperature and rises as temperature falls.
2. A significant part of our electricity is generated by wind turbines, so if wind speeds are low there will be increased demand on gas fired generation. In some weather conditions gas fired generators may not have sufficient gas to respond.

In many ways gas security of supply has deteriorated significantly in the last year

1. We have now left the EU and no longer have guaranteed access to supplies from Continental Europe, both electricity and gas.
2. Those European markets are now very short of gas themselves as they try to move away from dependence on Russia.

The position is potentially very difficult this coming winter, but may be even worse than NGG has
suggested. A key part of their supply analysis is that we can get gas from Continental Europe of
around 0-125 million cubic metres per day. This is a vital component of UK gas supply and in past
peak demand periods, such as March 2013 and Late February 2018, Continental Europe provided
around 20-25 % of our gas. However, this is now is some doubt due to market changes this year.
The paradox is that plenty of gas may be available in a mild winter. However, if temperatures drop and gas becomes short, then gas companies in Europe may be increasingly reluctant to supply the UK. Their own customers will always have priority. This may lead us to a knife edge situation. If temperatures are relatively mild we may be managing fine without any problems but then if temperatures drop another couple of degrees, or if wind speeds fall significantly, we may be hit by a double whammy. Higher demand for gas combined with lower supply; with European suppliers growing reluctant to export to the UK. The situation could deteriorate very quickly and take NGG and the government by surprise.

As well as gas, the UK is also an importer of electricity and around 10% of our supply comes from overseas. This winter a combination of reduced availability from French nuclear power plants, shortages of gas and low rainfall in Scandinavia, may mean that these sources may also have
reduced availability. This could exacerbate the security of supply problems. My advice to everyone is to pray for a mild winter !

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