Cold weather threatens British gas supplies

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The Independent Online

The UK faces gas supply problems if the cold snap continues, a leading energy consultancy warned today. The National Grid issued a Gas Balancing Alert asking large industrial customers to ease off on fuel use earlier this week - the first in almost four years. And as supply struggles to keep up with record demand, the security of the UK’s energy supply is under threat, according to McKinnon and Clarke (M&C).

The unusually cold weather exposes the UK's underinvestment in gas storage facilities while it could rely on gas production from now-dwindling North Sea reserves. " While gas importing countries like Germany have 4 months’ supply stored in reserve, the UK has only 3 weeks," David Hunter, an analyst at M&C, said. "The Government is acting as if the UK is still a gas exporter - unfortunately this is no longer the case and the truth is we rely on Norway, Russia and the Middle East to keep the lights on, our homes heated and businesses operating."

Notwithstanding acknowledgements in the industry that more storage is needed, there was scepticism about claims from the Conservative Party that the UK's facilities contain only enough gas for eight more days. Sources said there are more like 15 days’ worth left.