UK winter blackouts ‘extremely unlikely,’ minister says

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Britain is “extremely unlikely” to see blackouts this winter because it has a sufficient energy buffer and doesn’t get much of its gas supply from Russia, according to senior cabinet minister Nadhim Zahawi.

Zahawi, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, said in an interview on the BBC that while the UK will continue to face an energy challenge because of Russia’s war in Ukraine, Russian gas accounts for only 3 percent of the country’s supplies. Domestic production of gas rose 26 percent this year and the government will continue to invest in gas infrastructure, he added.

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“I’m confident that the resilience is there that people can enjoy their Christmas and feel that the government is behind them helping them with their energy bills, Zahawi said.

His comments follow a recent warning from regulator Ofgem that the country faces a “significant risk of gas shortages” in coming months, and an analysis by Britain’s grid operator, National Grid Plc, that outlined a scenario in which some customers would see three-hour power cuts on cold, calm days.

Russia has squeezed gas flows to Europe in retaliation for sanctions imposed by the West following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. That’s reduced global gas supply and increased competition for the fuel, raising the prospect of blackouts this winter as about 40 percent of the UK’s electricity comes from burning gas.

Zahawi said only half of gas imported by the UK is from Russia. He also said that Britain having the second-largest natural gas processing terminal in Europe will also help.

The UK has been working on improving its energy stability, the minister said. “We have done a couple of things that actually made it more resilient. One, we’ve got the same buffer in terms of energy as last year. Two, we have made sure we continue to investment in our gas,” he said.

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