The Daily Telegraph

Cut gas use by 10pc or risk blackouts, Europe warned

- By Matt Oliver

EUROPE must slash its gas consumptio­n by more than a tenth to prevent the risk of power rationing and widespread blackouts this winter, the global energy watchdog has warned.

The Internatio­nal Energy Agency said the Continent and the UK needed to voluntaril­y reduce gas demand by 13pc in order to remain “safe and secure” if Russia cuts off supplies.

This will help ensure that gas facilities are at least one third full by March 2023, when the energy system will be at its most vulnerable. Failure to do this could lead to industrial power rationing and the possibilit­y of widespread blackouts for businesses and homes if a latewinter cold snap strikes.

The agency’s prediction is based on a worst-case scenario where Russia turns off the taps and imports of liquified nat- ural gas (LNG) do not continue at their present high levels.

In its latest gas market report, the IEA said: “Europe’s security of gas supply is facing unpreceden­ted risk as Russia intensifie­s its use of natural gas supplies as a political weapon. The possibilit­y of a complete cut-off in Russian gas deliveries cannot be dismissed ... when the European gas system is at its most vulnerable.”

The IEA report’s analysis indicates “maintainin­g adequate storage levels until the end of the heating season – at 33pc of their working storage capacity as a minimum – will be crucial for a safe and secure winter”.

The agency said cutting gas demand this winter is also important because it will ensure storage facilities are less depleted going into next summer, when Europe faces a fresh challenge to refill them without Russian supplies.

The warning came after National Grid’s chief executive told British households to prepare for the possibilit­y of blackouts on the coldest evenings of January and February. John Pettrigrew

told the Financial Times the “unlikely” situation was possible in the “deepest, darkest evenings”, if generators failed to secure enough gas from Europe in the peak 4pm-to-7pm period.

Echoing those concerns, the IEA warned a cold snap in late winter remains the “Achilles heel”. It examined three scenarios based on energy savings of zero, 9pc and 13pc.

The EU was yesterday reportedly drawing up “last resort” measures to curb gas prices in the event of a supply crisis. These would allow Brussels to impose a “maximum dynamic price”.

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