ahead of time to “reassure the public in the event that a ‘major loss of power’ causes mobile phone networks, internet access, banking systems or traffic lights to fail across England, Wales and Scotland.” The prospect of winter blackouts caused the National Grid to issue a rare warning of blackouts lasting up to three days, and the BBC to plan ahead for different scenarios to be read over emergency broadcasts.
National Grid chief executive John Pettigrew warned of rolling blackouts between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. on “really, really cold” days in January and February, should generators not be able to secure enough natural gas when wind speeds during a cold snap were too low to power turbines.
Meanwhile, Germany’s Energiewende policy to close all nuclear power plants was put on a very temporary hold. Germany’s last two remaining nuclear plants, which were scheduled to close at year’s end, have been given a reprieve till April 2023, to be kept on standby for energy security.
Incidentally, New England’s grid operator is also warning of potential blackouts this winter, owing to tighter competition for shipments of natural gas and the fact that pipeline infrastructure New England needs has been blocked.
In terms of energy needs and prices, the coming winter months are expected to be especially harsh for Europeans. The problem isn’t only years of heavily subsidizing renewable sources of electricity generation, trying to force a transition away from highly efficient fossil-fuel sources of electricity. The oil and gas implications from the Russian war on Ukraine are deep and global, but worst for Europe. The European Union’s December embargo against Russian oil looms, but a bigger problem is Europe’s reliance on natural gas imports, especially from Russia. In the meantime, to keep the lights on and homes heated, Europe, despite its “green” energy aspirations, is returning to coal (for which it also overwhelmingly relies on Russia).