More than 1,500 households across the northwest of England have been left without electricity over the Christmas holidays, according to data from PowerOutage.com. The outages have reportedly affected the regions of Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Cheshire and Lancashire. The worst affected region appears to be Cumbria, where 1,305 customers (now 1,284) reportedly suffered from an outage. Meanwhile in Cheshire East, up to 181 households experienced a power cut, although this has now been brought down to 0, figures show.
Across Greater Manchester, 29 households have been affected, while 13 homes in Lancashire have also reportedly been plunged into darkness amid the power outages as temperatures drop.
Electricity North West said that the issue has been caused by an “unexpected incident”, first reported at 8.39pm on Tuesday night. While engineers are on site, the issue is not expected to be fixed until 3pm today, meaning households will go without electricity until then.
PowerOutage.com is an ongoing project created to track, record, and aggregate power outages across the UK. While these cuts may have come as a surprise for the 1,500 left in the dark during the post-Christmas period, a scenario involving planned power cuts could be soon approaching if the UK fails to shore up enough energy imports from Europe this winter.
National Grid ESO, the network operator, has warned in its Winter Outlook that its “worst-case scenario” emergency plan would involve three-hour rolling blackouts during the “deepest, darkest” nights of the coldest winter months of January and February.
If this situation occurs, cuts will be rolled out on an are-by-area basis between 3pm and 7pm, the peak hours when demand is highest, in an attempt to balance the grid. This would help to ensure that power supplies are shared fairly with customers, providing power to everyone for most of the day.
According to Energynetworks.com, customers “would know when they would be without power by entering their postcode at powercut105.com to find their rota. The rota would only be published once emergency power cuts have been approved to take place”.
It adds that rota disconnections would only be used as a last resort, with the grid operators first rolling out other preventative measures such as turning down industrial demand and voltage reduction.
National Grid is also paying consumers to cut their electricity use during peak hours under a scheme designed to help the UK swerve blackouts this winter. The Demand Flexibility Service has already seen one million customers sign up, with five successful test runs seeing National Grid hand out £2.8million just for the testing period to energy suppliers that were involved.
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The scheme marks the first-ever time that households have participated in flexible usage on mass in the UK. National Grid said that the energy savings from participating customers in the first two tests were much higher than originally expected. It is still waiting for the latest data from the most recent tests.
Back in October, the grid warned it would need to be able to slash demand by 2 Gigawwatts through the scheme in order to avoid planned outages this winter. But with a million customers enrolled, the demand reduction available to date was still only in the “hundreds of megawatts”. However, it did expect that volumes would “continue to grow throughout winter”.
Energy suppliers offering the opportunity for their customers to take part include E.on, Octopus, EDF and British Gas. Customers only get one day’s notice before the scheme gets activated.
This comes amid fears that Russian President Vladimir Putin will cut even more gas from Europe, supplies of which have already plunged amid the brutal war in Ukraine. While the UK only got four percent of its gas from Russia last year and is scrambling to wean out imports of the fossil fuel, Europe is far more dependent.
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Much of this gas is burned to generate electricity, some of which gets sent to the UK via interconnectors linking it to continental Europe. Meanwhile, France, which also sends exchanges energy with Britain through these connections, is also suffering from nuclear power issues that could force it to limit its energy exports to the UK.
Dr Paul Dorfman, a nuclear expert and anti-nuclear campaigner from the University of Sussex, told Express.co.uk: “The ongoing safety corrosion issues have a significant impact on France and its ability to export power. There is no question that France will choose to light up Paris, in extremeness, than to deliver power elsewhere – like to the UK for example.”
He later added: “France may have to roll out organised blackouts too…the nuclear fleet is very old and cracking up…France is now even importing power from Germany.”