UK gas consumption just peaks on back of heatwave with temperatures expected to exceed 30C
British households are stocking up on gas to stave off shortages after two lorries carrying supplies were diverted to France, highlighting the fragile nature of the country’s gas network.
Britain’s gas consumption in the first 24 hours of July rose by 1.5m cubic metres (1.5m cubic metres) to 1.72m, the biggest one-day increase in a year. Market analysts said this could represent a shortfall of about 7.2% in the next few days.
Gas imported from the Netherlands was more than doubled to 130.9m cubic metres by 7.30am on Wednesday, more than what is needed to meet demand over the rest of the day. South-west supplies were diverted by 5am to reduce the demand.
However, the shortfall could worsen with temperatures predicted to exceed 30C for the next two days.
One of the diverted lorries’ intended routes was the dual-carriageway A20 from the Yorkshire Dales to Liverpool.
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A spokesperson for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said: “It’s possible this diversion may have led to higher imports, but we don’t yet know.
“We’ve got contingency supplies in the UK as well as additional supplies coming to Europe, which are being used as they come to market. As it’s always easy to panic, we have been taking steps to stop retailers from artificially inflating prices.”
Levels in the UK’s gas stocks are nearing historic lows as firms look to secure their supplies ahead of the expected onset of winter. This month in the UK, fuel supplies are nearly 60% lower than a year ago, the Association of Gas Distributors and Heat Providers (AGDH) said.
The British Gas owner Centrica last week said households should start to plan for higher heating bills as supply disruptions hit its North Sea fields.
“Weather conditions in the UK are incredibly hot, while supply of British gas has been disrupted,” said Michael Ryan, the AGBH chief executive. “This means we will be feeling the affects of these kinds of shortages sooner than normal. It is a stark reminder of the unpredictable nature of the gas market.”
The widespread use of solar power will exacerbate the problem because of Britain’s large and diverse energy resources. Solar panels on homes and businesses offer 40 times the power of a gas-fired power station, according to the AGBH.
Last year in the UK, AGBH found that nearly a third of the difference between actual and expected supply is accounted for by solar power generation.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change said: “The UK has a diverse, stable and flexible energy market. We are using this experience to set a new framework for gas supplies.”
The market’s resilience is based on the business-as-usual consumption patterns of Britain, where the average house uses about 33% of its total demand on three days per year, winter and summer. Demand fluctuates when the energy is used, which contributes to a lack of predictability in supplies.
The relatively high share of year-round consumption indicates there is more use of space heating and outside cooking in summer when electricity is the main source of heat, which means the system would become more stressed and vulnerable to supply interruptions.
Net storage – the difference between the amount of gas produced on or underground in Britain and the amount consumed – was 170.3bn cubic metres on 30 June, according to AGBH. This marks a decline of 0.6% on a year ago and a fifth of capacity since 2012, the highest level seen since the 1980s.
Sources: United Kingdom Electricity Suppliers (UKISO), Association of Gas Distributors and Heat Providers (AGDH), Department of Energy and Climate Change