The government is testing emergency power outage plans as supply fears grow National Grid | Whuff News

The government has emergency plans to deal with power outages lasting up to seven days in the event of a national blackout amid growing fears of security of supply this winter.

The Guardian has seen the documents, marked “officially fragile”, which warn that in the “worst case” all sectors including transport, food and water supply, communications and energy could be “severely disrupted” for up to a week.

They show that ministers will prioritize getting food, water and shelter to young and old people, even those with caring responsibilities, if the country is shut down, and the Met Office warns that Britain is facing a serious risk of a cold winter.

Whitehall officials are currently stress testing the Yarrow Programme, a secret blackout response plan, and have held a series of exercises with government departments and councils across the country in recent days.

The national government’s plan was first drafted in 2021, before Russia invaded Ukraine, to improve planning and resilience in the event of a major technical fault in the National Grid. It is not related to the energy outlook published by National Grid this winter.

However, concerns about the impact of blackouts have grown because of the war, and government insiders admit that planning processes have taken on a new urgency because of the power crisis, which has caused electricity bills to rise.

Ed Miliband, the shadow climate secretary, said: “All governments make emergency plans for worst-case scenarios but the reality is that we are at risk as a country as a direct result of a decade of failed energy policy.

“Offshore wind shutdowns, reduced investment in energy efficiency, nuclear slowdowns and gas storage closures have led to higher debt and reliance on natural gas imports, leaving us more vulnerable to the impact of Putin’s use of energy as a geopolitical tool.”

The type of technical error proposed by government planners includes flood damage or an electrical strike at a small station, but it could also cover a hostile country’s attack on submarine power lines, following Russia’s attack against the Nord Stream energy pipeline.

The leak comes after a warning from Tom Tugendhat, the security minister, on Monday that Britain has become “more vulnerable” in recent years as countries seeking to make it more dangerous “have laid the groundwork” by investing time and money in new technology.

In the worst-case scenario outlined in the plan, only analogue FM radios would work, with BBC 2 and 4 broadcasting, and uncertainty about local radio as some stations only have a few hours of generator coverage.

The Guardian revealed last month that the BBC has prepared secret scripts that can be read on air if power shortages cause blackouts or gas outages in winter.

Another source said: “The government does not want any publicity for Yarrow, as it does not want it to be seen as related to Ukraine, electricity and the cost of living. But we need to think about how we can help people in advance. The fact that they are talking about it now means that they are genuinely concerned that it could happen. “

Cabinet Office sources said they did not recognize the claim, as the planning was not related to the events in Ukraine.

The Yarrow system prepares for a situation where power is unavailable, without prior warning, at all locations except for storage generators during the winter. It is estimated that 60% of electricity demand will be met “between day 2 and day 7” when households and businesses will be given “temporary access” to supply.

The agreement between the energy regulator Ofgem and National Grid stipulates that 100% of electricity demand must be restored after a week. The government expects the target to be met even in the worst case scenario.

“All sectors will be severely disrupted, including communications, transport networks, power supply, food and water,” another document said.

Yarrow’s plans prepare for a more dire scenario than that outlined by National Grid last month, which warned that Britons could face three-hour blackouts in the worst-case scenario if temperatures drop sharply and Russia cuts gas supplies to Europe.

Under the emergency power supply code, homes and businesses will be given 24 hours notice of planned outages, and the plan can be published up to next week on a rolling basis.

The “rota disconnection plan” is designed to cut power equally across the country. Power cuts must first occur once a day for three hours, although it may take up to an hour to reconnect afterwards. However, the frequency of reduction will depend on the severity of the power supply shortage.

Jan Rosenow, European director of the Managed Aid Project, an energy thinktank, said: “There are many things coming together at the same time: gas shortages, high prices, problems with the production of electricity at nuclear plants in France. That is what is causing concern to the government. It is wisdom [to plan for outages]. It’s a shame that this conversation is taking a toll. “

A government spokesman said: “As a responsible government, it is right that we plan for all possible scenarios and work with industry to prepare and implement robust emergency plans.” This work is ongoing and is an important line of our national resilience strategy.

“Local and national exercises are part of this ongoing work and we ensure that we are able to respond effectively to any number of situations, no matter how rare.”

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