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A lack of gas storage capacity and the refusal by the government to limit demand increases the risk of blackouts this winter.
By Nick Ferris
As Europe heads towards winter and alarm rises over gas supplies, the UK has found itself with among the lowest volumes of gas in storage in Europe.
Data from industry group Gas Infrastructure Europe shows that the UK has only 9.8 terrawatt hours (TWh) of gas in storage, equivalent to just 1.2 per cent of our annual gas consumption. By contrast, Germany has 220.8TWh, Italy 170.3TWh, and France 126.9TWh.
The UK has the second highest overall gas consumption in Europe, using gas to heat 85 per cent of homes and provide around 40 per cent of electricity. Yet while other European countries have been working to fill storage facilities over the summer, the UK has not done so. Part of the problem is that the UK dismantled its largest gas storage facility in 2017, a decision taken by Liz Truss, who was then chief secretary to the Treasury.
In light of Russia restricting its gas exports to Europe, EU member states agreed in July to reduce gas demand by 15 per cent over the winter. Countries such as Croatia and Greece have introduced temperature limits on air conditioning and central heating, while Spain is forcing shops to turn off window lighting by 10pm.
The UK gets far less of its gas from Russia, but is still exposed to price rises in the wider market and has done little to try to reduce gas demand. This increases the likelihood of rationing measures and blackouts over the winter.
[See also: The EU remains by far the UK’s biggest trading partner]