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Ministers eye reopening of gas depot to avert energy shortages

Will we be able to keep the lights on this winter? Ministers eye reopening of gas depot to avert energy shortages… but they play down fears of power cut

  • The move is being considered in case European supplies from Russia are cut off
  • Russia already cut gas supplies to some countries, such as Poland and Finland
  • Another contingency plan involves extending the life span of nuclear plant
  • Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng is looking at keeping the Hinkley Point B plant in Somerset open longer than planned, but only if safety standards are met

Ministers are in talks about reopening a giant gas storage facility in case European supplies from Russia are cut off.

The discussions with energy firm Centrica form part of contingency plans being explored ahead of winter and amid the war in Ukraine.

Yesterday Downing Street said the Government does not ‘expect’ power cuts, despite reports that as many as 6million households could be hit this winter.

Ministers are in talks about reopening a giant gas storage facility in case European supplies from Russia are cut off, with another contingency plan under consideration being to keep the Hinkley Point B nuclear plant in Somerset (pictured) open longer than planned

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng (pictured May 15) is looking at keeping the Hinkley Point B plant in Somerset open longer than planned – but only if it complies with ‘safety certification’, a minister has revealed

Budget pasta prices soar by up to 50%

Low income households which rely on budget foods are seeing big increases on essentials, with pasta prices rising by 50 per cent.

A study of 30 budget ranges across supermarkets found staple foods have risen by over 10 per cent in the past year.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show the cheapest bread and minced beef have increased in price by around 16 per cent, while rice is 15 per cent more expensive. A study by Which? found one six are having fewer cooked meals due to increased energy costs.

One in 12 have prioritised meals for family members including children, while three per cent say they have turned to a food bank. The ONS figures confirm reports from campaigners, such as author Jack Monroe, whose own research found the prices of budget ranges rising sharply. 

Another contingency plan involves extending the life of a nuclear power station.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng is looking at keeping the Hinkley Point B plant in Somerset open longer than planned – but only if it complies with ‘safety certification’, a minister has revealed. 

A No 10 spokesman played down fears of power cuts and rationing, saying: ‘I think you would expect government to look at a range of scenarios to ensure plans are robust, no matter how unlikely they are to pass.

‘Neither the Government or National Grid expect power cuts this winter. We are in a fortunate position – we are not dependent on Russian energy imports and have one of the most reliable and diverse energy systems.’ Centrica’s facility in Yorkshire was mothballed in 2017 when the Government refused to subsidise it.

But the Government said it may now be prepared to contribute to re-establishing a strategic gas reserve.

The talks are part of plans for a ‘reasonable worst case scenario’ in which Russia shuts off all gas supplies to Europe, resulting in Norwegian supplies being redirected from the UK to Europe.

Culture minister Chris Philp was asked yesterday about reports that ministers have been warned of potential power cuts to as many as 6million households this winter. The reports said the Government has drawn up plans for rationed electricity if supply issues deteriorate.

Culture minister Chris Philp (pictured) was asked yesterday about reports that ministers have been warned of potential power cuts to as many as 6million households this winter

Last month, Mr Kwarteng wrote to the owners of the three remaining coal-fired power stations to ask them to stay open longer than planned. They were due to be closed to help reach climate change targets.

When asked about the risks of keeping the nuclear plant at Hinkley Point B open, Mr Philp stressed ‘safety is paramount’.

No extension to the life of any power station would take place ‘unless the safety certification had been done in a very thorough way’.

Hinkley Point B started generating electricity in 1976. In November 2020 it was announced that it was to move into decommissioning within the next two years.

Mr Philp told Times Radio: ‘What Kwasi Kwarteng did last week was take some sensible precautionary measures.’

A Government spokesman said: ‘It remains our firm commitment to end the use of coal power by October 2024.’ 

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