February 3, 2023

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Ministers under fire for ‘last minute’ attempt to bolster Britain’s winter energy supplies

2 min read

UK ministers have come under attack for taking a “last minute” approach to bolstering domestic energy supplies this winter and avoiding the possibility of blackouts if Russia cuts off gas to Europe.

The pushback came after EDF Energy was forced to put out a memo last week to explain that time had “run out” to delay the closure of one of Britain’s six remaining nuclear power plants at the end of July.

Robert Gross, professor of energy policy at Imperial College London, said there had been a sense of “business as usual” from the government even though the UK relies on fossil fuels for 40 per cent of its electricity generation, predominantly from gas.

Gross was among a group of academics who in December called on the ministers to revisit the UK’s approach to energy security, warning it had been “complacent about the supply of gas for too long”.

Extending the life of the Hinkley Point B plant in Somerset was one of the options ministers were exploring as part of contingency planning for potential energy shortages later this year. Whitehall’s worst-case scenario would leave 6mn homes facing partial blackouts if Moscow stops sending gas to western Europe and Norway, which is Britain biggest supplier of gas, is forced to divert some of its output to other allies.

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Other options include keeping three coal-fired power stations open — all but one of those was due to be mothballed by the end of September as part of the UK’s plan to reduce carbon emissions — and belatedly looking to reverse the closure of some of the Britain’s last few gas storage facilities.

Many involved in the energy sector have reacted with dismay that it has taken ministers this long to start making winter contingency plans given it was evident by last…

2022-06-05 15:00:36

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