Politics

There Could Be Mass Power Cuts This Summer. Will They Hit The UK?

With temperatures set to climb over the summer while the Ukraine war drags on and fuel shortages continue, some experts believe various countries around the world should prepare for blackouts.

The weather is expected to be particularly warm in the northern hemisphere in the coming months – India and Pakistan have already experienced extreme heatwaves throughout the spring – meaning more people will turn to air conditioning to cool their homes.

But it’s not clear if there will be enough energy to go around.

Here’s a breakdown of how different areas will be affected, and a look into whether the UK could be impacted.

Why would there be any blackouts?

There are several factors at play such as the Ukraine war, the supply chain issues caused by the pandemic, climate change, and fuel shortages.

“The main risk is that if we see major blackouts on top of all the aforementioned problems this year, that could trigger some form of humanitarian crisis in terms of food and energy shortages on a scale not see in decades,” an analyst at Eurasia Group, Henning Gloystein, told US outlet Bloomberg.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine triggered the west to announce various boycotts of its oil and natural gas exports in protest, reducing some countries’ supplies. Even for those who haven’t cut off Russia’s gas supply altogether, Moscow has threatened to as tensions rise over its war in Ukraine.

A lack of investment in sourcing fossil fuels elsewhere could mean some nations are about to enter a very difficult transition period before they are fully able to cope without Russia’s exports, which could affect basic services like access to power.

The difficulties surrounding Russia’s supplies have also made it harder for poor nations to purchase such fuel, as the west’s sanctions on the Kremlin mean the gas and oil price has gone up, too.

Climate change also increased tension – extreme weather means there is more strain on various power grids because people are turning to use more air conditioning, and reservoirs are depleted, affecting anywhere that relies on hydropower.

The pandemic means companies and businesses are trying to recover their losses after the years of lockdowns – again, putting pressure on supplies.

Has anywhere already been affected?

Several places are already combatting extreme weather this year, a situation only exacerbated by power outages.

South Asia has struggled with blackouts stretching out for up to 10 hours a day. Pakistan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and India have all been seriously impacted, as one billion people faced reduced power supplies.

Scorching temperatures have been recorded across India in recent weeks

Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Analysis from the Met Office said the heat wave in south Asia was probably made 100 times more likely to happen by climate change, with such temperatures (at times above 45C) possibly reoccurring every three years.

It triggered a spike in electricity demand in India, which depleted its coal reserves, where 70% of its energy comes from, and triggered the acute power shortage.

Over in the US state of Texas, six plants failed in May, while 12 states in total could experience blackouts in the summer months, according to Bloomberg.

“The US is experiencing more outages globally than any other industrialised nation. About 70% of our grid is nearing end of life,” Teri Viswanath, lead economist at CoBank ACB, claimed.

China and Japan are struggling too, while South Africa is already on track to break its own records for power cuts.

What about Europe?

Although Europe is less likely to experience extreme temperatures, and has significant amounts of natural gas in reserve already, it may be impacted by the shortages too.

If Russia were to retaliate against the west’s sanctions and cut off its natural gas supplies altogether, there could blackouts in some countries – most European nations are pushing to fill its gas stores to max capacity just in case.

Spain, France and the UK probably would have adequate storage to ride out such a blip, until nations closer to Moscow, such as Hungary and Latvia, which are more reliant on the Russian exports.

Could the UK have another problem on the horizon?

The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport workers (RMT) could vote to strike this summer, meaning freight trains supplying critical power plants would be severely disrupted.

This would affect the electricity feeds to millions.

Tesco and Puma energy could find themselves struggling to supply garage forecourts as the RMT considers striking over pay and staff cuts from late June onwards.

The RMT has balloted 40,000 members, and the results could be released on Wednesday morning.

However, even if the strike does go through, contingency plans would still allow some trains to run.




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