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Conservatives and National Grid Warn of Gas Shortages

By David Holmes on January 7, 2010

UK SnowIt appears the unusually cold weather now affecting Britain is to linger for sometime to come as the primary cause of the snow, ice and sub-zero temperatures can be traced to strong negative atmospheric pressure in the Arctic.

As recorded by the Arctic Oscillation Index, this negative atmospheric pressure can heavily influence weather systems across the Northern Hemisphere and it is worth noting current readings are at their lowest point since 1950. As such, Britain is experiencing a transitory yet prolonged period of unusually cold weather. Unfortunately, the fact that the unseasonably cold weather is likely to continue will be of little comfort to domestic energy suppliers, who have been instructed by the National Grid to cut their own gas usage.

The request by the National Grid was prompted by its own ‘gas balancing alert’, which is raised when demand outstrips production. In this case, consumer demand for gas neared record levels in December 2009 and it is quite likely such a trend will continue into the new year for as long as the cold weather remains. In fact, gas demand on Wednesday was predicted around 447m therms, which falls just short of the record high of 449m therms set in January 2003. It is obvious increased and prolonged demand of gas will eventually cause supply problems where production is lower, which is why Britain has a plentiful stock of gas. Or does it?

According to the Shadow Energy Secretary, Greg Clark, Britain has sufficient reserves of gas to last just 8 days at the current rate of consumption. This figure can be contrasted with a report in the Guardian online news service back in November 2009 that stated supplies could last up to 16 days at average rates of consumption. To put these figures in further context, it’s thought France and Germany have enough gas supplies to last 91 and 73 days respectively. Therefore, it would appear Britain has entered a period of uncertainty regarding gas supplies that is only likely to pass when changes in Arctic atmospheric pressure are experienced. Until then, Britain could be facing gas shortages before much longer.

The news comes in the same week the government announces its Boiler Scrappage Scheme, an initiative to reduce the amount of inefficient boilers installed in England’s homes. Full details of how to apply for the scheme can be found here: How To Apply for the Boiler Scrappage Scheme