Energy Price Cap: Will there be blackouts in the UK this winter? When was the last UK blackout?

Blackouts are a possibility in the UK this winter as the energy crisis escalates.

Ofgem confirmed an 80% rise in the energy price cap on Friday (August 26), affecting the energy bills of around 24 million households across the UK.

Energy prices are rising as a knock-on effect of the Covid-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has significantly reduced gas supplies in Europe.

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But another issue arising from this crisis is the potential of blackouts from energy shortages this winter.

Energy blackouts could take place in a worst-case scenario, a UK Government report has found (Getty Images)
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The UK Government is reportedly considering emergency blackouts to save gas, leaked documents of a “reasonable worst-case scenario” suggest.

Here's everything we know about the possibility of blackouts in the UK this winter.

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Will there be blackouts in the UK this winter? What causes blackouts?

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Energy prices are rising as a knock-on effect of the Covid-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (Getty Images)

The UK Government is planning for a worst-case scenario which could see planned blackouts over four days in January 2023.

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This could take place if there is a perfect storm of freezing weather and reduced energy being piped from Norway and France.

But, a spokesperson from the Government’s Department for Business & Energy called the reports “wilfully misleading and not something we expect to happen”.

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They said: “We are not dependent on Russian energy imports, unlike Europe, with access to our own North Sea gas reserves, steady imports from reliable partners, the second largest LNG port infrastructure in Europe, and a gas supply underpinned by robust legal contracts, meaning households, businesses and industry can be confident they will get the electricity and gas they need.”

Edward Heath in Glasgow
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Despite this, there was almost a blackout in London following the heatwave in July – with the National Grid paying the highest price on record to prevent this happening.

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Ofgem has assured Scottish Government no blackouts will happen this winter, acco...
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Where does the UK get its energy from?

The UK gets most of its energy from natural gas (around 40%), which it imports around 50% of.

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It spent £19.6 billion on gas imports in 2021 – £14.5 billion of which was from Norway. While Russia was the UK’s forth biggest supplier of gas last year, behind Qatar and the US.

When was the last UK blackout?

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The last major blackout took place in October 1987 when the UK was hit by the biggest storm in 300 years. It caused 18 deaths, felled 15 million trees, and wiped out the power supply for hundreds of thousands of homes in the South East of England.

Before then, back in December 1973 Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath introduced the Three-Day Week.

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War in the Middle East created a global oil crisis, which was compounded when coal miners went on strike over pay – severely impacting the electricity supply.

Edward Heath took the decision to limit electricity consumption for non-essential services and businesses to just three days a week.

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This lasted two months and had an enormous impact on people’s lives and the economy – ending when Heath called a general election and was replaced by a Labour Government led by Harold Wilson.

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