Government Does Not "Expect" Planned Blackouts This Winter, Minister Says
The Government does not “expect” the country to experience planned blackouts this winter, a minister has said (Alamy)
Climate minister Graham Stuart has said the government does not "expect" the UK to face planned blackouts this winter, but that they are planning “for all eventualities” after the National Grid warned households could soon face power outages.
The National Grid said on Thursday that in a "worst case scenario" some areas could see power outages lasting up to three hours if the UK does not secure sufficient energy supplies from Europe.
The government is resisting measures to encourage people to be more cautious with energy use, having already intervened to bring costs down in the face of rising global fuel prices.
Stuart claimed this morning that the public should be confident “we’ve taken all the steps” to cater for the country’s energy needs this winter.
He insisted that the government did not anticipate a situation where homes faced energy rationing if supplies from Europe became limited as a result of Russia cutting off pipelines to the region.
"That's not our expectation at all. But you've seen all sorts of things happening in recent weeks," he told Sky News.
“We plan for all eventualities and the public should be confident that we have a very strong and diverse supply, that we've taken all the steps to look after our needs for this winter.
Stuart added that the Prime Minister "has been really focused" on reforming the UK's access to energy, including plans to liberalise fracking, to ensure "we aren't in as vulnerable position ever again in future”.
It is expected that ministers will not launch a public information campaign in the coming weeks advising the public how they can cut their energy usage.
PoliticsHome reported last month that ahead of becoming Prime Minister, Liz Truss was advised to launch an information campaign advising people on how to reduce energy usage this winter as a further means of protecting increasingly limited UK supplies.
There were renewed calls for her to do this when she announced that the typical household energy bill would be frozen, with some officials warning that the move would make people less likely to cut down on how much energy they use.
However, while ministers have discussed the idea, PoliticsHome has learned Downing Street remains against it and continues to insist that it is not for the government to tell people how to use energy.
It was reported in the Times on Friday that business secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg had signed off on an information campaign, but the go-ahead was blocked by Downing Street.
The intervention was due to cost £15m and would have encouraged people to lower the temperature of their boilers, turn off radiators in empty rooms, and turn off the heating when they go out, according to the newspaper’s report.
On Thursday Truss met with European leaders in Prague to discuss cooperation around energy this winter.
In a statement following the meeting, she said: “The UK will continue to work with our allies to deliver on the British people’s priorities, including ending our reliance on authoritarian regimes for energy and reducing costs for families, tackling people smuggling gangs, and standing up to tyrants.”
Ed Miliband, shadow climate change secretary, said the National Grid announcement "shows our vulnerability as a country as a direct consequence of a decade of failed Conservative energy policy".
“Banning onshore wind, slashing investment in energy efficiency, stalling nuclear and closing gas storage have led to higher bills and reliance on gas imports, leaving us more exposed to the impact of Putin’s use of energy as a geopolitical weapon," he said.
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