How blackouts will work as power cuts to roll across the UK this winter | The Sun

BLACKOUTS might hit parts of the country this winter if power plants cannot get enough gas to keep running.

The National Grid is warning that households could face the first planned blackouts in decades.

It said that households and businesses might face planned three-hour outages to ensure that the grid does not collapse.

But the operator hopes that paying households to turn down their heating and not use their washing machines at peak times will save the country as much energy as possible.

Planned blackouts hit the UK during the 1970s in response to the miners strikes and the oil crisis.

There have also been major unplanned outages in storms, including in 1987 when over 1.5 million people were left in the dark.

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But why is all this happening, and what can we realistically expect to happen this winter?

Here, we explain exactly what's going and how the blackouts could work.

Why could there be blackouts this winter? 

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Around 40% of the UK's electricity supply is generated from gas. 

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In the face of a “challenging” winter, the grid operator is also planning for what would happen if there were no imports of electricity from Europe.

To tackle a loss of imports from France, Belgium and the Netherlands, there are two gigawatts of coal-fired power plants on stand-by to fire up if needed to meet demand.

The National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO) said that households and businesses might face planned three-hour outages to ensure that the grid does not collapse.

When will the blackouts happen?

The National Grid says they would plan three-hour blackouts in some areas during peak times.

This means power cuts could be in the evenings.

The number of people left without electricity would depend on how many gas power stations would be forced to shut down because there is not enough gas.

Electricity generators would choose where to have outages based on how much supply they need to cut.

It means if there are planned power cuts then they would be in one area at a time, not the whole of the UK.

The worst period for supply is likely to be throughout December to mid-January, excluding the Christmas period. 

It did warn that this is a worst case scenario. 

There are 15 power networks in the UK, and if there is a looming shortage, the National Grid will notify households if they will be cut off temporarily.

Chunks of households in particular areas could be cut off with the homes which have their supply turned off rotated to avoid the entire country being plunged into darkness.

How will blackouts be avoided?

Households are being encouraged to help avoid blackouts, “save money and back Britain” by using more energy during off-peak times.

Households will get £10 per day for turning down their appliances.

Households tend to consume a fifth of their daily energy between 4pm and 7pm, according to data from Ovo Energy.

The supplier on Thursday said its customers could save £100 if they signed up to use energy at off-peak times.

In addition, larger businesses will be paid for reducing demand, for example by shifting their times of energy use or switching to batteries or generators in peak times.

People are being encouraged to sign up with their electricity supplier for a scheme which will give them money back on their bills.

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To get the money back, customers will be expected to shift their use of power away from times of high demand to help prevent blackouts.

You can find out more about this in our handy guide.

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