By Murray Wardrop
For the second time ever, the National Grid yesterday issued a warning to energy providers that demand for gas is threatening to outstrip supply.
The ultimatum comes after a 30 per cent rise on normal seasonal demand as snow and freezing conditions continued their stranglehold on Britain.
While it is unlikely that households will find their supplies restricted, a shortage could lead to higher bills.
The National Grid, responsible for meeting the country’s energy requirements, issued a gas balancing alert (GBA) yesterday to give warning that any further falls in supply could force big users like power plants to cut their consumption.
Extra gas supplies were rushed out to the liquefied natural gas importation terminal in Kent through pipelines in Belgium and Norway following the alert.
The National Grid said the risk of shortages had been temporarily averted by the influx.
“Supplies of gas to the UK have increased following the issuing of a gas balancing alert today,” a spokesman said.
He added: “The big generators like E. ON have gas-fired power stations and coal-fired power stations. They can choose to switch from gas to coal.
“(Yesterday) we thought there was going to be a certain amount of gas going into the country and then a few suppliers, their supplies dropped off.
“They weren’t going to be able to provide the amount that we thought, so we issued a GBA so hopefully that’s going to bring it back to where it should be.”
The first time the alert was used was in March 2006.
The alerts are a way of warning customers to ease off on the fuel as well as encouraging suppliers to bring in more gas, which Britain relies on imports for.
The fuel is used to heat about two thirds of Britain’s homes.
Freezing weather is set to stay in the coming weeks, and the National Grid has not ruled out sending out further supply warnings.
In the event of a serious shortage, big industrial consumers are expected to bear the brunt of gas consumption cuts to shield residential users who rely on the fuel to keep warm. Read more here.
Hard-up pensioners have resorted to buying books from charity shops and burning them to keep warm.
By Miles Erwin, Metro.co.uk
Volunteers have reported that ‘a large number’ of elderly customers are snapping up hardbacks as cheap fuel for their fires and stoves.
Temperatures this week are forecast to plummet as low as -13C in the Scottish Highlands, with the mercury falling to -6C in London, -5C in Birmingham and -7C in Manchester as one of the coldest winters in years continues to bite.
Workers at one charity shop in Swansea, in south Wales, described how the most vulnerable shoppers were seeking out thick books such as encyclopaedias for a few pence because they were cheaper than coal. One assistant said: “Book burning seems terribly wrong but we have to get rid of unsold stock for pennies and some of the pensioners say the books make ideal slow-burning fuel for fires and stoves. A lot of them buy up large hardback volumes so they can stick them in the fire to last all night. A 500g book can sell for as little as 5 pence, while a 20kg bag of coal costs 5 pounds sterling.” Read more here.