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No need to cut energy use and no risk of winter blackouts, No 10 tells public

UK can cope as not dependent on Russian gas imports, says Downing Street spokesperson

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Monday 22 August 2022 19:04 BST
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Tory MP Kevin Hollinrake says energy crisis will lead to more people 'on the streets'

People should carry on using as much energy as they want because there is no risk of winter blackouts, No 10 says – dismissing expert warnings.

Former government advisers have urged the government to copy the EU by levelling with the public about the need to reduce demand to avert a supply shortage, as well as to cut their rocketing bills.

But Boris Johnson’s spokesperson insisted there is no need for the UK to act because, unlike most EU countries, it is not dependent on Russian gas imports.

“Households, businesses and industry can be confident they will get the electricity and gas that they need over the winter,” she told The Independent.

“That’s because we have one of the most reliable and diverse energy systems in the world,” she said, adding: “We have access to our own North Sea gas reserves alongside steady imports from reliable partners like Norway.”

Asked if the public should cut back on their energy use in any way, the spokesperson replied: “No.” She said: “These decisions, in terms of energy consumption, remain decisions for individuals.”

The advice comes despite some experts fearing there is a risk of winter blackouts – especially if problems in Norway and France reduce their exports to the UK.

Adam Bell, head of energy strategy for the government until last year, predicted a 10 per cent chance of several days this winter when “for a short number of hours some domestic consumers lose power”.

“By not educating the public about how they can best lower their demand, they’re increasing the likelihood of a security of supply issue,” said Mr Bell, now at the Stonehaven consultancy, at the weekend.

Despite No 10’s comments, officials are known to be privately wargaming a “worst-case scenario” of blackouts and gas cuts this winter that might trigger contingency measures.

The spokeswoman also refused to say whether Mr Johnson is living at his Chequers country retreat for his last two weeks in power – after removal vans took his furniture away last week.

She said he would be dividing his time between No 10 and Chequers, after returning from his latest summer holiday, but would not say where he would be most of the week.

Asked how the prime minister would seek to shape his “legacy” in his remaining days in office, the spokesperson pointed to underlining support for Ukraine in the war with Russia and existing measures to ease the cost of living crisis.

Mr Johnson has rejected pleas to gather the Tory leadership contenders, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak, to try to thrash out a fresh emergency plan – arguing that must await his successor’s election.

“A large focus this week is on reiterating our support for Ukraine, and that is an unwavering commitment that we have to supporting Ukraine in the face of an illegal war,” they said.

“The government is also focused on supporting people with the cost of living and making sure that those who are eligible for the £37bn of support that’s already available through our phased-in plan are availing themselves of it.”

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