Official Government documents reveal a plan for UK households to have three-hour blackouts at least three times a week if Russian President Vladimir Putin restricts gas supplies to Europe this winter.
There have been warnings that Russia, who are accused of sabotaging the Nord Stream pipelines, may cut their gas supply and use the colder months as a weapon against the West for its support for Ukraine.
While the UK does not rely on imported gas from Russia, it would be heavily impacted as we import large amounts of electricity and gas from European countries that do.
The Electricity Supply Emergency Code allows the Prime Minister to introduce rolling power cuts across the country in an effort to conserve electricity.
It comes as the National Grid chief said blackouts could occur on particularly cold nights in January and February if electricity generators did not have enough gas.
Here, MailOnline shows you exactly when your household would be affected by power cuts and for how long.
The UK could introduce rolling blackouts this winter if energy supply dips below demand – the government’s emergency plan details exactly when houses would be without power in a series of graphs
The lowest level of rolling blackouts: The black squares indicate a three-hour-long power cut while the letters on the chart refer to the ‘load block’ – which all houses are divided up into. If you live in block A, you would have power cuts on Monday 12:30am to 3:30am, Wednesday 3:30pm to 6:30pm and on Sunday 12:30am to 3:30am
You can find which load block you live in by looking for a letter in a square box (pictured) on your energy bills
Each day of the week is split into eight three hour slots, starting with 00:30 to 3:30am and ending with 9:30pm to 12:30am
Level 2: The second level of blackouts will see houses going without power around six times a week – the rota tries to keep the blackouts close together
Level 3: If energy supplies in the UK dwindle during the winter the number of blackouts could increase significantly
The Electricity Supply Emergency Code (ESEC) is a plan that aims to provide an equal distribution of electricity to customers ‘as far as reasonably practicable’ in the case of shortages.
The document states there are three methods that would be implemented to reduce energy consumption.
The first is direct appeals to the public and industry asking them to reduce their electricity demand.
The second is placing restrictions on industrial electricity consumption – for example requiring companies to reduce their consumption by a certain percentage.
The final option is ‘rota disconnections’ – or rolling blackouts for households across the country.
Energy in the UK is provided by a number of suppliers, but all of them divide their distribution networks into 18 ‘load blocks’ – which work in a similar fashion to postcodes.
Each of these load blocks is assigned a letter between A and U, though the letters F, I and O are not used.
You can find which block you live in by looking for a letter, often boxed, on your energy bills.
Knowing your load block letter will allow you to find out when blackouts would affect you.
It is based on where you live and how your electricity is supplied – potentially meaning properties close to yours would not experience a blackout at the same time as you.
The areas are spread across the country, so customers with the same load block letter across the UK would be affected at the same time.
Each day of the week is split into eight three-hour slots, with the first slot of the day starting at 00:30.
The rota is designed to let businesses operate as normally as possible for three days in succession.
This means that power cuts are concentrated between Monday and Wednesday or Thursday and Saturday, with Sunday being shared between all blocks.
The first level of rolling blackout would see houses three times a week, four for some load blocks. The distribution is spread across so that most cuts occur towards the start or the end of the week.
The rota still tries to keep the blackouts close together but the number doubles from the previous level, with houses going without power around six times a week.
The third level increases the number of three-hour powers cuts by three again – meaning households will experience 27 hours a week without any electricity.
And here’s what could happen if the power situation gets worse….
Below are more graphs from the ESEC, showing how energy suppliers would have to respond to increasing levels of shortages.
There are 18 levels of ‘rota disconnections’ which each gradually increase the frequency of power cuts – level 9 is the first where houses will spend more time without power than with.
The final graph depicts the extremely unlikely worst-case scenario of a ‘total shutdown’ where there is no energy supply at all.
Level 18: The worst-case scenario would be total shutdown in energy production in the UK – leaving all houses completely without power
The document specifies that there are ‘protected sites’ which would not be affected by the rolling blackouts.
Hospitals, food manufacturers, oil refineries, some ports, financial services, essential water and sewerage installations, major airports and digital and telecommunication services would not be affected.
The document says ‘All Protected Sites are expected to, as far as is reasonably practicable, reduce load broadly in line with the level of disconnections applied to non-protected sites’.
But if energy supply becomes extremely sparse, protected sites may be ordered to reduce their consumption to the minimum load necessary for the avoidance of damage.
In the event of electricity supplies being insufficient to meet the needs of all the protected sites, Network Operators may need to ‘exercise discretion’ in allocating the available electricity supplies.
The ESEC says in such cases, priority should be given to the ‘maintenance of life’ and to ‘minimising the risk of disasters’.
The BBC has reportedly prepared a series of secret scripts to be read out on air in case of blackouts amid energy shortages this winter.
The scripts would advise the public to use their car radios or battery-powered devices to tune into to emergency BBC broadcasts via FM frequencies and would seek to keep the public informed in the event of a ‘major loss of power’, The Guardian reported.
One script seen by a Guardian reporter allegedly warns that a blackout could last for up to two days, with hospitals and police placed under ‘extreme pressure’, while another says: ‘The government has said it’s hoped power will be restored in the next 36 to 48 hours.’
The scripts are said to have been produced as part of the BBC’s role in broadcasting vital health and safety communications to the public on behalf of the government in the event of national emergencies.
National Grid meanwhile is setting up a scheme that will pay households and companies for reducing their demand during periods of limited supply.
A Government spokesperson said: ‘The UK has a secure and diverse energy system.
‘To strengthen this position further, we have put plans in place to secure supply and National Grid, working alongside energy suppliers and Ofgem, will launch a voluntary service to reward users who reduce demand at peak times.’
But Britons are already preparing for the worst case scenario by stocking-up on portable generators and torches in addition to winter clothing, thermal underwear and candles, according to industry reports.