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Cost of living payment: Households to start receiving second grant ahead of winter | UK News

Low-income households are set to receive a second £300 cost of living payment from today.

The payment will be made to people who get certain benefits, including universal credit, and will be paid directly into their bank accounts.

More than 8 million households across the UK will receive the second cost of living support payment after the first in the spring.

It is due to arrive in bank acounts between 31 October and 19 November.

If you are eligible, the payment will be sent out automatically and the same way you receive your existing benefits – so you do not need to apply or do anything to receive it.

The payments are tax-free, do not contribute towards the benefit cap, and do not impact on existing benefits.

A further payment is due to be made next spring, bringing the total to £900.

As the payments were rolled out, Rishi Sunak said: “I know that winter can be a particularly challenging period for many families across the country.

“That’s why we have put in place a package of immediate support for vulnerable households over the coming months.”

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Sunak and Starmer clash over cost of living

Who is eligible?

Those who are entitled to receive the payment are those on:

• Universal credit
• Pension credit
• Income-based jobseeker’s allowance
• Income-related employment and support allowance
• Income support
• Working tax credit
• Child tax credit

Most people will be paid through the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) but those eligible solely through tax credits will be paid by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) instead.

HMRC will publish specific details of when payments will be made to these people.

Seasonal affective disorder – or SAD – isn’t just ‘winter blues’ | UK News

Seasonal affective disorder – or SAD – is often dismissed as “winter blues” or “depression-lite” – actually it is a “major depressive disorder”.

It is a nuanced and misunderstood mood disorder, Dr Laurence Wainwright, a psychiatry academic at Oxford University, tells Sky News.

But because it comes and goes, it’s not taken seriously – even though it can be “harrowing” for sufferers.

The acronym doesn’t always help. It’s one of the best shorthands in psychiatry, Dr Wainwright says – but it’s also easy to pass off as “just” sadness.

In fact, it is a “recurrent depressive phase” that comes on at certain times of the year – most commonly winter, although in summer for some people – and is in “remission” for the rest of the year, Dr Wainwright says.

“In the past, it has been categorised as being its own ‘thing’ and we still use the terminology seasonal affective disorder, but this is a subtype of major depression.”

Between 0.5% and 2.4% of the population suffer from it – anywhere between 268,000 and 1.6 million people in the UK.

The most common explanation for SAD is the lack of sunlight in winter.

Not getting enough bright light in our eyes can cause a “misfiring of the circadian rhythm, the body’s internal clock”, Dr Wainwright says.

An overproduction of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep, can also make people feel tired and less energetic.

Other factors are at play, but aren’t fully understood. Serotonin, a neurotransmitter and hormone that affects mood, appetite and sleep, is also implicated in causing SAD, as is vitamin D – but their exact role is still under research.

What are the symptoms of SAD?

SAD is marked by extreme tiredness, withdrawing from social activity, increased appetite, gaining weight and craving carbohydrates.

Other symptoms include “enduring low mood… anxiety, irritability, low self-esteem, or a reduced ability to focus”, psychotherapist Eloise Skinner tells Sky News.

The hypersomnia of SAD is different to the kind of tiredness a coffee will fix, Dr Wainwright stresses: “This is really just not being able to get out of bed unless you really have an urgent need to do so and sleeping for those really long periods.”

Social withdrawal can “get in a vicious cycle”, he adds. “You’re not going outside because you’re feeling tired and you don’t want to see people in that state, so you stay home longer and it just sort of exacerbates it.”

SAD lamps, CBT and misconceptions

Breaking those behaviour feedback loops using CBT – cognitive behavioural therapy – has been proven to work for SAD.

Light therapy also has good evidence behind it, particularly using very bright light of up to 10,000 lux, Dr Wainwright says. It involves sitting in front of a lightbox or “SAD lamp” for 30 to 60 minutes each morning to simulate the sunlight that’s missing in winter.

Having lights that slowly warm up in the morning, simulating dawn, can also be helpful, Dr Wainwright says.

Anti-depressants can also work well, he says, including SSRIs such as fluoxetine (Prozac) and sertraline (Zoloft).

Bupropion is commonly prescribed in the US, although it is not currently available in the UK. It is used as a preventative measure and prescribed a couple of months before winter and taken until spring.

Maintaining good sleep hygiene (having a good routine) and being consistent with sleep-wake cycles is also beneficial, Dr Wainright says – although he acknowledges this is “easier said than done” when you are “exhausted all the time”.

There are a number of effective treatments for SAD, he says, so people don’t have to “suffer in silence”.

But there are also a number of misconceptions about dealing with it: “The idea that you can out-think this or just go for a walk in the park or spend more time with your friends or stop eating so much or stop eating carbs.

“People say just go off to southern Europe on holiday for a few days and you’ll be right as rain, but that’s not the case with mental illness. This is a serious medical condition.”

A young man is using a sunlight simulator lamp in his home office to combat the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Pic: iStock
Image:
Sunlight simulator lamps can help combat SAD. Pic: iStock

Read more from Sky News:
Suppressing negative thoughts could help mental health
Just 22 minutes’ exercise to offset effects of sitting down

‘A harrowing time for many’

SAD can be “debilitating”, consultant psychologist Dr Elena Touroni tells Sky News.

“It goes far beyond just feeling a bit sluggish or unmotivated during the winter months.

“Those with SAD experience depression and fatigue in a way that impacts their day-to-day life.”

SAD might mean people are unable to work or care for their family, Dr Wainright says.

“For many people this is a harrowing time. To have potentially six months of the year in a depressive age where you’re withdrawing from activities, your energy levels are down, you’re sleeping far more than you should – these are major disruptions to someone’s life.”

Who is predisposed to SAD?

Young people between 16 and 30 are more likely to be diagnosed with SAD, as are women.

One study found women are two to three more times likely to be diagnosed with SAD – although Dr Wainright points out men could be suffering the same symptoms, but not reporting them to a doctor.

People living further away from the equator are also more likely to have SAD due to shorter days. This includes populations in Scandinavia, northern America and Canada.

What about summer SAD?

Summer SAD affects a small proportion of people with SAD who suffer seasonal depression in the summer months rather than winter.

Rather than over-sleeping and seeing an increase in appetite, people may suffer insomnia and a loss of appetite.

Why symptoms come on at that time of year is not well understood, Dr Wainwright says, but it could be the circadian rhythm misfiring due to a “time lag” of damage done over winter.

“It’s a very misunderstood condition,” he says.

Reduced chance of winter power blackouts despite loss of coal back-up – grid operator | Business News

The risk of the lights going out is down this winter, with power margins almost back to levels seen before the energy crisis, according to an eagerly awaited report.

National Grid ESO’s annual winter outlook, which assesses its own readiness for the coldest months of November to March, said it only saw a matter of minutes when the balance between supply and demand would not be met.

It forecast a margin of 7.4% capacity.

That means it expects to have 4.4 gigawatts (GW) of power in hand to meet its reliability standard.

The figure represents an improvement on the 6.3% (3.7 GW) that was expected this time last year when Russia’s war with Ukraine – and sanctions to punish Russia for its invasion – squeezed gas supplies across Europe, forcing energy prices up to unprecedented levels.

Struggles for nuclear output in France last year also placed a greater strain on UK resources.

The latest report concluded, however, that the Grid was still likely to have to issue so-called “margin notices” over winter for periods when the supply-demand balance is especially tight.

These are calls for power generators to provide as much as they can to the network.

That was despite more domestic generation being available, the Grid said, along with increased levels of battery storage and the ability to share power with other nations including France and Belgium.

The operator will also have the Demand Flexibility Service (DFS), introduced last year, to fall back on again as an additional tool.

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June: Blackout prevention scheme to stay

The scheme will see signatory households and businesses paid for turning off power-intensive appliances at times when power availability is stretched.

The DFS was utilised during a cold snap at the end of last winter following numerous test events that the Grid said had, when combined, saved enough electricity to power nearly 10 million homes.

Craig Dyke, the ESO’s head of national control, said of the blackout risk: “Compared to last year it is almost going back to around where it was before last winter.

“So the risks that we talked about last year, the probability of them occurring, are much, much lower.”

The main challenge facing the Grid this autumn is the loss of five coal-fired power plants that were held in reserve last winter.

They were able to be fired up in readiness to produce electricity when, for example, the wind did not blow but talks with EDF and Drax during the spring failed to produce a deal on new standby contracts.

Because there is no coal back-up to call on if margins become tight, gas and nuclear capacity becomes more essential.

A separate report by National Gas, which operates Britain’s gas grid, said it did not foresee higher exports to Europe this year due to improved storage levels on the continent.

As such, it believed there would be less pressure on domestic supplies and that less gas would be needed to produce electricity due to improved output from other sources, especially wind.

Read more:
Energy price cap falls below £2,000 from October
Support households ahead of ‘inevitable’ winter bills crisis, MPs warn
UK’s largest untapped oil field given go-ahead

Any unexpected loss of wind, gas or nuclear generation means the country would be at the mercy of available power in neighbouring countries through the so-called interconnector network.

There are five in operation, connecting the UK with France, The Netherlands, Belgium and Norway.

A sixth interconnector, Viking Link, is still under construction but is expected to join the UK with Denmark late this year.

Once operational, the two countries will be able to share enough electricity to power up to 1.4 million homes.

Over the course of a year, the UK tends to import more power than it exports through these arrangements.

This can add to bills depending on the power sources utilised, though the UK’s leading position in wind power can also work in its favour.

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Energy price cap falls

The fact remains, however, that energy bills remain around £1,000 per year higher than typical pre-pandemic levels.

A household paying by direct debit for gas and electricity will face an average annual charge of £1,923 from October to December, a fall of about £150 on the previous three months.

Experts warn that the loss of universal government support for bills will mean many households will be worse off this winter than last, particularly when industry forecasts suggest the average bill will be back above £2,000 when the next price cap adjustment is made for January-March.

NHS strikes: Hospital boss says preparing for winter amid walkouts ‘like going into battle with one hand behind your back’ | UK News

The chief executive of a busy NHS Hospital Trust has described preparing for winter amid ongoing industrial action by consultants and junior doctors as “going into a really tough battle with one hand tied behind your back”.

Matthew Trainer, CEO of Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust, was speaking exclusively to Sky News on the first day of an unprecedented joint action by consultants and their junior doctor colleagues.

He said: “I think we’ve cancelled more than 10,000 outpatient appointments here. We’ve cancelled more than a thousand non-urgent surgeries and a small number of urgent surgeries.

“What we’re increasingly seeing is actually we’re not cancelling things, because we’re not even booking stuff in any more for the strike days.

“It feels like we’re walking into a really tough battle with one hand tied behind our back.”

Mr Trainer, who has 12 hospitals under his care including the Queen’s Hospital in Essex and the King George Hospital in Ilford, said his patients and his staff were suffering because of the industrial action by NHS health workers. which is now in its 10th month.

He said: “It’s about the patients who are not getting access to the care that they need. And the second thing, it’s about the staff that we’re asking, at times, to work in some really tough circumstances.

“I regularly meet our emergency department teams because they tend to bear the brunt of it. Emergency departments are the last unrationed part of health care, they’re the only place you can walk into and guarantee someone will see you. And as a result, we’re seeing real pressures piled on to them.”

Some 900,000 NHS appointments have been cancelled across England since December last year.

Matthew Trainer
Image:
Matthew Trainer has 12 hospitals under his care

Hospitals now routinely do not book appointments for strike days, with the dates announced at least six weeks in advance. That means the true figure of disruption to elective care is likely to be much higher.

Mr Trainer added: “I think one thing that worries me is actually that we’re finding the strikes less difficult to cope with because we’re becoming so practised at them.

“The NHS is good at crisis management and responding to incidents. Actually, we now know how to stand up a strike rota. We know to take down all the planned care activity. This shouldn’t be something we’re used to doing.

“You know, this should remain a real outlier for us, to have cancelled 10,000 outpatient appointments since April is not normal. And we should not become accustomed to this as a way of doing business in healthcare.”

But this is likely to be the case for months to come, deep into another crippling winter.

Read more from Sky News:
NHS England waiting list hits record high
Health secretary attacks ‘increasing militancy’ of strikes
Thousands of Tube workers to go on strike

Hospital

The junior doctors and consultants have long mandates for strike action and show no sign of calling them off.

Their union, the BMA, will feel vindicated in its action after learning that the public is more than twice as likely to blame the government for the ongoing strikes than the doctors’ trade unions, by 45% compared to 21%, according to a YouGov poll commissioned by Sky News.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has made bringing down waiting lists one of his key pledges.

But that is not achievable unless there is a resolution to what is becoming an increasingly bitter and protracted dispute. It also means trusts are not able to prepare for the fast-approaching winter.

Mr Trainer continued: “We had a really tough winter, last year. January was as bad as I’ve ever seen it in terms of the pressures. Primary care is also seeing huge increases in demand.

“They’re seeing more people than ever before, but they can’t keep up with the demand, and mental health services are also dealing with enormous backlogs for care and emergency care.

“So we’re trying to get ourselves ready for that. But what we know at the minute is that unless there’s some kind of resolution to this, we’re going to have to deal with that regular disruption of strike action.

“And I think we’re getting to a position now where it’s making it very hard to plan for what’s going to be the toughest period of the year in the NHS.

“We’ve got clinical staff trying to deliver good quality health care in some really challenging environments at the minute. And this is just adding to the strain they’re feeling and adding to the pressures on the NHS.”

NHS to receive extra £200m ahead of winter amid record waiting lists | UK News

The NHS will receive a £200m boost from the government ahead of the busiest months of the year for them.

The winter resilience fund is aimed at supporting the health service so it can attend to patients as quickly as possible amid record waiting lists.

Last month, NHS England said 7.6 million people were waiting to start treatment at the end of June – the highest number since records began in August 2007.

The additional money will help hospitals keep up with pre-planned surgeries and operations to cut down the list, according to officials.

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NHS treatment list at record high

Both the government and NHS England set an ambition of eliminating all waits of more than 18 months by April this year.

However, that excluded exceptionally complex cases or where patients chose to wait longer.

Winter is a hectic time for the NHS with COVID, flu, and respiratory illnesses common during the season, with some health commentators saying last winter was one of the worst on record for the health service.

They welcomed the extra cash but have questioned how far it will stretch amid upcoming strikes by doctors and consultants.

For the first time in NHS history, joint walkouts were announced over pay disputes.

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NHS strike action escalates

Read more:
Number of long-term sick hits record high of 2.6 million
Male and female NHS surgical staff are victims of sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape

Alongside the winter fund, the government announced a £40m investment in social care, with local authorities being urged to bid for a share of the cash.

Ministers also injected £250m into the NHS last month as part of the two-year Urgent and Emergency Care Recovery plan which promised 5,000 additional beds, 800 new ambulances, and 10,000 virtual wards.

Officials said progress has been made compared to last July including faster emergency ambulance response times and more availability of general, acute, and virtual beds.

NHS England had also announced plans to introduce social care “traffic control centres” to help speed up hospital discharges for patients no longer needing to be in the wards.

Speaking about the new subsidy, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “Winter is the most challenging time for the health service, which is why we’ve been planning for it all year – with huge government investment to fund new ambulances, beds and virtual wards.

“This extra £200 million will bolster the health service during its busiest period, while protecting elective care so we can keep cutting waiting lists.”

Energy crisis: National Grid to keep blackout prevention scheme for coming winter | Business News

The operator of Britain’s electricity system says it is to keep a scheme that aims to help prevent blackouts for the coming winter.

National Grid ESO said it was “prudent to maintain” the demand flexibility service (DFS), which was introduced in 2022 in the wake of Europe’s gas squeeze caused by the war in Ukraine.

The operator added that the terms of the scheme were now out for consultation.

Its early winter outlook report, due to be updated in September, expected sufficient capacity to meet demand this winter after the turmoil leading up to 2022/23 when gas flows from Russia were stopped.

But it also confirmed it expected to have less coal-fired generation held in reserve.

“We are continuing to have discussions on the availability of having two coal units in contingency contracts this winter.

“One of the units held in contingency last winter has returned to the market. The other two units have now closed”, the ESO explained.

The DFS, which was activated for the first time in January after a series of tests and false alarms, sees volunteer households paid to turn off their main appliances at times of peak demand.

The UK played a pivotal role in helping supply the continent with gas ahead of last winter amid a race to fill storage and stop the lights going out given its historic dependency on Russian gas.

The country, however, tends to import electricity during the winter months.

A relatively mild 2022/23 winter, coupled with alternative supply, meant Europe ended last winter with a record volume of gas in storage.

The report said of Britain’s electricity output: “We expect there to be sufficient operational surplus in our base case throughout winter.”

While the ESO is confident on the capacity issue, market experts still expect gas and electricity costs to go up over the colder months as demand spikes.

It could mean that household bills, through the energy price cap, start to rise again.

The cap kicks in again from July following the end of the government’s energy price guarantee that limited the wholesale prices that consumers faced.

The level of the cap, at just above £2,000 for the average annual bill, is well down on the £2,500 estimate under the guarantee.

Futures contracts for natural gas see peak prices of 149p per therm in January.

July’s contract is running at just under 100p.

UK weather: Bitter winter temperatures set to return next week – and there could be snow | UK News

Parts of the UK are likely to see weather warnings early next week, as bitter winter temperatures return for a brief time.

There are currently no Met Office weather warnings in place but the UK Health Security Agency has issued a cold weather alert.

Both organisations say all parts of England will experience cold weather from 1am on Monday until midnight on Wednesday.

Some regions could even see snow.

Dr Agostinho Sousa, head of extreme events and health protection at UKHSA, said: “During periods like this, it is important to check in on family, friends and relatives who may be more vulnerable to the cold weather, as it can have a serious impact on health.

“If you have a pre-existing medical condition or are over the age of 65, it is important to try and heat your home to at least 18C if you can.”

It comes as people continue to struggle with high energy bills, and the UKHSA offered some advice to people trying to stay warm.

Several layers of thinner clothing will keep you warmer than one thick layer, they said.

Drinking hot drinks and eating hot food also helps.

Check the 5-day forecast for where you live

‘A distinctly wintry feel to our weather next week’

Chris Almond, deputy chief meteorologist at the Met Office, said: “Although we’ve moved into meteorological spring there will be a distinctly wintry feel to our weather next week.

“Very cold air will spread across the UK bringing snow showers even to sea level in the north on Monday and these snow showers could spread further south on Tuesday.

“With freezing overnight temperatures and the risk of ice, it is likely weather warnings will be issued for Monday and Tuesday once the detail of potential impacts becomes clearer, so keep an eye on the Met Office forecast.”

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It comes after England had its driest February in 30 years, according to the Met Office.

The UK saw less than half of its average rainfall for the month, at 45%, with just 43.4mm.

‘Digital mimics’ among 16 projects launched to help NHS with winter pressure | Science & Tech News

Researchers are using artificial intelligence (AI) to “digitally mimic” households struggling with the impact of the cost of living crisis to simulate the most effective ways to help.

It’s one of more than a dozen projects spanning data analysis to machine learning that have been launched to help counter the winter pressures facing the NHS.

It comes as the health service buckles under the strain of large numbers of flu and COVID cases, a huge backlog exacerbated by the pandemic, and mounting wait times for ambulances and emergency and routine care.

The 16 projects, launched by Health Data Research UK (HDR), hope to deliver findings by the end of March.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay said the goal was to channel “the spirit of innovation” that led to the rapid rollout of coronavirus vaccines, with the government providing £800,000 in funding.

If you are an NHS worker and would like to share your experiences with us anonymously, please email NHSstories@sky.uk

While many of the projects seek to find ways of using technology to relieve pressure on hospital staff, others seek to address some of the root causes of the troubles facing the NHS.

One such initiative uses existing data and AI to “digitally mimic” household environments and simulate interventions that might improve the standard of people’s health at home – especially children.

Dr Martin Chapman, from King’s College London, explained: “Living in cold, damp, and mouldy homes leads to chest conditions in children and mental health problems in adolescents, and rising energy costs mean more people than ever are living with heat poverty.

“We’re investigating the effectiveness of interventions like support for energy bills on the health of young people by using AI to digitally mimic their household environments and evaluate the impact of simulated interventions.

“This will help guide future policy changes to improve health conditions, reduce inequalities, and in turn reduce pressures on NHS services.”

Read more:
Ambulance response times worst on record
How many spare beds does your local hospital have?

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‘I couldn’t believe what I was seeing’

What are some of the projects?

Using the same infrastructure that powered Siren, which collated and published regular public data on COVID at the peak of the pandemic, the winter pressures sub-study will see it expand to include flu and a common children’s illness called Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV).

Another project aims to use AI to help clinicians more easily identify high-risk patients.

By analysing patient data, an AI model could suggest the most suitable ward for a patient to be on, those at most immediate risk of deterioration, and when someone should be discharged or not.

Also focused on hospital discharge times is a project called DS4SmartDischarge.

This uses machine learning (the process of teaching a computer to do something by itself) to help computers categorise patients based on the risk of different discharge outcomes.

Another team made up of health care workers, hospital leaders and the Society of Acute Medicine is also using machine learning to help build a model that identifies patients in need of same day emergency care.

Patients would be graded based on data like blood pressure, medications and bedside tests, helping staff make a decision within four hours of them coming to hospital.

Project lead Professor Elizabeth Sapey said the work would help with “reducing inequalities in care and relieving pressure on emergency services”.

‘Rapid response to evolving pressures’

While the projects come too late for the current crisis enveloping the health service, it is hoped they will produce results that help it better cope in the long term.

Professor Cathie Sudlow, chief scientist at HDR, said they would hone in on “key pain points” in the NHS.

“By using existing data, research teams, and infrastructure, these projects are able to respond rapidly to evolving pressures on the NHS,” she added.

Each of the projects has been partnered with analysts in the Department of Health, which sponsored the plans; the Office for National Statistics; and the UK Health Security Agency.

Once findings are delivered in March, it is hoped they will be published later in the year.

Winter power blackouts ‘extremely unlikely’ but UK must ‘plan for every scenario’, says minister | Politics News

Power blackouts this winter are “extremely unlikely” this winter, Cabinet Office Minister Nadhim Zahawi has told Sky News.

The Tory frontbencher also insisted there was no need for the government to spend £14m on an energy-saving public information campaign, given the advice already available.

Mr Zahawi’s comments come amid concerns of power cuts with the squeeze on energy supplies following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In a wide-ranging interview with Trevor Phillips on the Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme, Mr Zahawai also:

  • Urged party unity in the face of infighting following the planned tax cuts chaos
  • Insisted no decision had been made on increasing benefits in line with wages rather than inflation
  • Stressed the need to tackle “bad migration” as some foreign students bring more than six dependents with them

Pressed on the possibility of planned blackouts, Mr Zahawi said: “It’s extremely unlikely.”

While stressing the UK’s energy resilience, he added: “But it’s only right that we plan for every scenario.

“All I would say is we have a buffer, the same buffer as last year, and so I’m confident that come Christmas, come the cold weather, we will continue to be in that resilient place, but it’s only right we have looked at every scenario.”

The government has also resisted calls for it to encourage people to reduce their overall energy use, despite warnings of a heightened risk of power cuts, with ministers arguing it was “not a nanny-state”.

It follows reports Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg had signed-off a public information campaign only for the plan to be ruled out by Prime Minister Liz Truss.

Read more:
Torches not candles and write down emergency numbers: How to prepare for a blackout
How worried should we be about lights going out?

She has instead highlighted the importance of increasing energy production in the UK to prevent further crises and sought to reassure the country that “we will get through this winter”.

Mr Zahawi said: “What the National Grid is doing with Ofgem is also having a communication programme to tell people how they can do better.

“We, ourselves, if you go on gov.uk you will be able to see how you can actually help your home or your business conserve energy.”

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Tackled about reports Mr Rees-Mogg had agreed an information drive, Mr Zahawi replied: “The question you ask is about spending £14m on a campaign. That I think is the wrong thing.

“The National Grid and Ofgem and actually a number of the energy providers are using the direct communication with households to be able to say ‘here are some measures you can take’.”

He added: “What we’re not doing is spending £14m on a government campaign.”

Amid energy security and price crisis, key winter outlook report takes on particular significance | Climate News

The National Grid’s electricity system operator and gas system operator will release one of their regular winter outlook reports later.

They are designed to set out supply and demand scenarios as the weather gets colder and energy consumption tends to peak.

Amid an energy security and price crisis, this year’s outlook report has taken on particular significance, especially after the energy regulator Ofgem warned earlier this week that “due to the war in Ukraine and gas shortages in Europe, there (is) a significant risk that gas shortages could occur during the winter”.

“As a result, there is a possibility that (the UK) could enter into a gas supply emergency.”

There are lots of things that will impact the National Grid’s report and ultimately how confident it feels that the lights will stay on.

Supply is a critical issue

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Risk of emergency gas shortage

About half of the UK’s gas comes from the North Sea, but we import the rest either through pipes, or interconnectors, from Norway, the Netherlands and Belgium or via liquid natural gas shipments (LNG) from big producers like America and Qatar.

This supply is vital not just because 85% of UK homes rely on gas for heating, but also because the UK gets 40% of its electricity from gas fired power stations.

And although the UK doesn’t get very much gas at all from Russia, Europe does. If Russia further throttles supply to the continent, there could be knock on effects for the UK in the form of supply issues, rocketing prices, or both.

The UK is particularly exposed because of its limited gas storage facilities, meaning it can’t fall back on its own reserves in the same way that Germany can, for example.

Additionally the UK has to compete on the global market, particularly against Asia, for LNG shipments which make up about 17% of the gas supplied to the UK through production and imports.

UK’s large LNG imports infrastructure is an advantage

The UK has a big LNG imports infrastructure which gives it an advantage, but the predicted stability of this market will have a big impact on the National Grid’s risk assessment, as will any further predicted issues with the supply of electricity generated by France’s nuclear power stations, many of which have been offline for maintenance.

The National Grid will also estimate how much wind and solar power we can expect to generate in the coming months too, and how much “back up” electricity can be generated by some of the UK’s remaining coal fired power stations.

Wind farm

This brings us to the issue of demand.

In a tight situation, if supply cannot be increased, demand must be reduced.

Read more:
Energy bills capped at £2,500 a year from October
Back onshore wind and solar farms to solve winter fuel crisis, say experts
Eye-watering energy price cap may save businesses… but comes at a serious cost

Prime Minister Liz Truss has pledged there won’t be energy rationing this winter but that is a bold promise to make.

Writing in The Times today, ahead of the inaugural European Political Community summit in Prague, she urged European leaders to work together “this winter so we keep the lights on across the continent”.

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Energy price rise: ‘It’s hideous’

But other European countries have already asked consumers to reduce consumption during peak hours and have been open about the possibility of energy rationing, beginning with big industry, should that be necessary.

There could be public awareness campaign asking people to use less energy

The National Grid has previously stressed that the blackout risk for homes is “very unlikely”, but in the spirit of preventing an emergency shortage is also consulting on measures like paying homes and businesses to reduce electricity and gas consumption if asked.

Separately the government might launch a public awareness campaign to ask (rather than tell) consumers use less.

And it is worth saying that despite Liz Truss’s promise, the government and the National Grid routinely updates plans for what is known as a “reasonable worst case scenario”, in which a combination of very cold weather and serious supply issues causes an energy shortage that requires rationing, rather than risking uncontrolled blackouts.

If this were to happen, gas fired power stations could be closed and big industrial users could be prevented from using energy.

There is also the possibility of electricity to households being turned off during critical hours, although the government has stressed this is unlikely.

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