Factories’ Gas Cut Off As Demand Soars

(Telegraph) – FACTORIES AND POWER STATIONS have started to have their gas turned off as Britain begins to run out amid the prolonged Arctic weather conditions.

The National Grid has withdrawn supplies to 94 “very large” gas customers across England, 55 in the East Midlands and 39 in the North West.

It is the first time in 11 years that gas supplies have been cut, and came as gas demand was expected to reach a record high of 454 million cubic metres on Thursday.

All the customers, which the National Grid said include “steelworks, power stations and very large factories”, are on what are known as interruptible contracts.

This means that in return for discounted gas they accept that their supplies can be temporarily cut off during periods of high demand.

A National Grid spokesman said the last time interruptible contracts were invoked was 1999.

She said many customers on interruptible contracts had backup generators, but those without them would have to shut down.

They also had the option of continuing their supply if they paid a financial penalty.

The National Grid asked gas suppliers to cut the 94 customers off on Tuesday and the disconnection will last until demand falls.

With little sign of any change in the weather soon, reconnection could be weeks away.

Maintaining domestic gas supplies was a “top priority”, the spokesman stressed.

Earlier this week the Conservatives claimed that Britain had only eight days’ gas supplies left, based on current usage.

And on Thursday the National Grid issued its second gas alert in four days amid freezing temperatures nationwide.

Britain has poor gas storage capacity: only 15 days’ worth when full, compared to more than four times that in France and Germany.

While imports will plug the gap, they are more expensive and analysts have warned they could lead to higher bills.

Already the average annual energy bill stands at £1,239 according to uswitch.com, a price comparison site.

David Hunter, of McKinnon and Clarke, an energy consultancy, has said the “uncomfortably tight” gas situation “might give the energy companies the excuse they need to increase prices.”