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Energy regulator: UK facing 'significant risk' of gas shortage, possible emergency in winter

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
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Britain's energy regulator says the country faces a "significant risk" of gas shortages this winter as Western sanctions keep preventing Russia from servicing its Europe-headed gas supply routes.

British regulator, the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem), informed power company, SSE, about the grim outlook in a letter on Monday, saying the country was looking at a possible "gas supply emergency."

The emergency, it added, would see gas supplies to some of the country's power plants cut, a development that would prevent them from generating enough electricity.

Russia supplies only four percent of the UK's gas. However, the sanctions that have been imposed by the West on Russia over its February-present military operation in Ukraine, have come in the way of Moscow's ability to provide the continent with the fossil fuel.

Early last month, Russia said gas supplies to Europe via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline would not resume in full until the Western countries reached a collective decision and lifted the sanctions.

Making the announcement, the Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, blamed the European Union, the UK itself, and Canadian sanctions for Russia’s failure to deliver gas through the key pipeline.

He said the sanctions had caused a "pumping problem" by preventing the pipeline's units from being duly serviced.

The Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines link Russia and Europe via the Baltic Sea.

Later in September, the pipelines were hit by unexplained leaks.

Moscow put the onus on the West and its sanctions again, with Peskov saying, "It is the collective West -- in this case the European Union, Canada, and Britain -- that are to blame for the situation reaching this point."

In a separate email, Ofgem warned, "We need to be prepared for all scenarios this winter."

In the event of gas supply issues, Ofgem and Britain's National Grid could be forced to curb supply of gas to gas-fired power stations to make sure enough supply remains available to households.

"As a result, Ofgem is putting in place sensible contingency measures with National Grid ESO (Electricity System Operator) and GSO (Gas System Operator) as well as the government to ensure that the UK energy system is fully prepared for this winter," the regulator said.

Gas-fired power plants were responsible for more than 40% of Britain's electricity production last year while the fossil fuel is also used to heat around 80% of British homes.

Britain's National Grid said in July there could be periods where electricity supply is tight this winter, given uncertainty over supplies of Russian gas to Europe.

National Grid is expected to announce its winter outlook on Thursday.

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