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Households on the brink of blackouts due to severe cold weather – what you need to know

BRITISH households are on the brink of blackouts due to the severe cold weather brought by the Arctic blast.

The warning comes after the UK experienced heavy snow and saw temperatures plummet to -15°C making the UK colder than Finland.

Last week, the UK depleted a fifth of all its stored gas in just six days as temperatures plummeted

And Brits could be hit with rolling blackouts as National Grid struggles to cope, the Mail on Sunday reports.

Sources claim forecasters “dramatically underestimated” the scale of the Arctic blast.

They claim experts told then-Energy Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg there was “less than a one-in-ten chance” of temperatures falling as low as they have done – leaving National Grid out of the loop and unlikely to stock up on the gas needed to meet demand.

The freezing weather saw National Grid trigger its back-up power plan amid fears energy supplies could run out.

As the country woke up to a blanket of snow, the company ordered two coal-fired units at Drax power plant in Yorkshire to be ready for potential usage on Monday.

It was the first time this winter the National Grid has considered using the coal plant, which it previously said would be deployed only as a “last resort” to prevent blackouts.

But in the end, the emergency plans triggered did not need to go ahead.

Last week, the UK depleted a fifth of all its stored gas in just six days as temperatures plummeted.

The weather is set to improve from tomorrow, with the mercury likely to nudge 14C in some areas.

But Britain is first expected to be hit by freezing rain and snow today leading to chaos on the roads.

We’ve explained why blackouts could be planned this winter below.

Why could there be blackouts this winter? 

There has been unprecedented turmoil in energy markets in Europe, due to shortfalls in gas caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

Around 40% of the UK’s electricity supply is generated from gas. 

The National Grid says we are expecting a “challenging” winter and it is planning for what would happen if we’re unable to import electricity from Europe meant the UK didn’t get enough gas. 

Previously the National Grid has always said that if there were planned blackouts, that these would only affect big business and not households. 

To tackle a loss of imports from France, Belgium and the Netherlands, there are two gigawatts of coal-fired power plants on stand-by to fire up if needed to meet demand.

When could they happen? 

If there are days this winter that are cold – creating high demand and low levels of wind power – then National Grid may need to interrupt supply for limited periods. 

The worst period for supply is likely to be throughout December to mid-January, excluding the Christmas period. 

The National Grid says that they would be planned three-hour blackouts in some areas. 

The outages would be at peak times, which means power cuts could be in the evenings.

The number of people left without electricity would depend on how many gas power stations would be forced to shut down because there is not enough gas.

Electricity generators would choose where to have outages based on how much supply they need to cut.

It means if there are planned power cuts then they would be in one area at a time, not the whole of the UK.

It did warn that this is a worst-case scenario. 

What emergency plan will National Grid follow?

Before a planned blackout, the National Grid will issue its emergency plan to reduce power supply.

Government documents reveal the first stage would involve direct appeals to the public to reduce their power consumption.

The second is putting restrictions on companies’ electricity usage by requesting they reduce their consumption by a certain percentage.

And the final stage would involve rolling blackouts for homes across the UK.

And, I’ll be paid to use less electricity?

People are being encouraged to sign up with their electricity supplier to a scheme which will give them money back on their bills to shift their use of power away from times of high demand to help prevent blackouts.

Households could be paid to put their washing machines or dishwashers overnight. 

The demand flexibility service (DFS), runs from now to March, and is being introduced to help prevent blackouts.

It will run up to 12 times to ensure people are rewarded, even if there are no blackouts this winter.

We’ve listed all the energy suppliers taking part in the DFS.

In addition, larger businesses will be paid for reducing demand, for example by shifting their times of energy use or switching to batteries or generators in peak times.

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