Households have been told to “carry on cooking” despite National Grid issuing a gas deficit warning as fears mount that supplies could run empty and energy prices could skyrocket amid extreme weather conditions across Britain.
The power operator said the warning has been issued in response to a series of “significant supply losses resulting in a forecast end-of-day supply deficit”.
Household supplies are not expected to be affected but shortages could hit industrial users as the Grid attempts to balance supply and demand into Friday.
It plans to do this by limiting industrial use and buying in more gas if necessary.
But energy minister Claire Perry attempted to downplay the situation, insisting that National Grid is following “standard procedure” and claiming that people’s domestic supplies will not be affected.
“I have spoken to National Grid this morning and we are in constant contact to monitor the gas supply throughout this extreme weather,” she said.
“So do carry on using your gas heating and cooking meals as normal.”
According to National Grid’s forecast, there is a shortfall of around 50 million cubic metres.
It said in a statement: “Due to the extremely cold weather we are seeing very high demand for gas so this morning we issued a gas deficit warning which is a notice to the gas market that we would like more gas to be made available.
“This is a situation that we are always prepared for and a deficit warning is part of our normal toolkit in extreme weather to make sure we can balance gas supply and demand.
“Protecting customer supplies is always our first priority and we would like to reassure people that their domestic gas will not be affected.”
The stark warning came as snowfall brought parts of Britain to a standstill, trapping motorists on roads and threatening air, rail and road journeys across the country.
Adding further fuel to the flames, British wholesale gas prices doubled for the second day in a row on Thursday, prompting commentators to speculate that household bills could soar as a result.
Alex Neill, at Which?, said: “As the cold snap continues across the UK, households will be worried about any potential gas supply shortage and whether this will push up the price that many are already struggling to pay for their energy.”
Another day of sub-zero temperatures, gale-force icy winds and blizzard-like conditions is expected as Storm Emma sweeps in from the Atlantic on the tail of the Beast from the East’s chilly blast.
Experts piled blame on successive governments for failing to ensure Britain’s gas security.
Dr Jonathan Marshall, energy analyst at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, said: “Allowing Centrica to close the UK’s only big long-term gas store without consideration for supply during cold snaps, failing to develop a coherent plan for low-carbon heating, and above all a head-in-the-sand approach to improving energy efficiency in homes have all put households and businesses at risk of shortages and price spikes.”