LONDON: Britain is not asking people to use less energy, climate minister Graham Stuart said on Friday, despite a warning from the National Grid that homes and businesses could face three-hour planned blackouts this winter.
“We’re not in the business of telling people how to live their lives,” Stuart said on Times Radio, arguing that any public information campaign would not reduce the risk to Britain’s energy supply.
The National Grid’s warning on possible power cuts was based on a worst case scenario, if Britain is unable to import electricity from Europe and struggles to attract enough gas imports.
“If there were such a scenario, it would come at a very sharp point, so the fact that somebody had reduced their energy usage a week before or even a day before you get to a peak wouldn’t really make any difference to the security of supply,” Stuart told Sky News.
“In all the central scenarios, we are going to be fine.” Under new Prime Minister Liz Truss, Britain has been taking steps to bolster its energy security, with a ban on fracking for shale gas in England lifted last month, and a new oil and gas exploration licensing round launched on Friday.
Truss has said that strengthening the country’s energy supply is an “absolute priority”.
The government, which has stepped in with an energy support package to help people with soaring bills, said on Thursday it was working with energy suppliers and regulator Ofgem on a voluntary service to reward users who cut demand at peak times.
Countries across Europe have been scrambling to shore up supplies ahead of winter as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the West’s sanctions on Moscow in response have sent oil and gas prices surging.
The regulator in Germany, whose main gas supplier is Russia, has sounded the alarm of a “winter crisis” unless significant usage cuts are made.
But when Stuart was asked if people should be using less energy, he said: “We are not sending that out as a message.” “The last thing you want to do is tell someone to switch things off for the national need when it makes no difference to the national (energy) security position,” he said.
He added that he did not expect the power cuts to happen.
He dismissed media reports that Truss had blocked a planned public information campaign on energy savings. The Times reported that she was said to be “ideologically opposed” to the campaign due to concerns it would be too interventionist.