Economy

Britain may have to buy BACK the gas it exported to Europe to keep on the lights at Christmas

Britain may be forced to buy back gas exported to Europe to keep the lights on this winter after giving away roughly 15 per cent of its supplies.

Due to the UK’s lack of storage, supplies previously shipped to terminals in the UK and then piped abroad will have to be pumped back into the country as temperatures fall.

Large volumes of fuel have been sent to the European Union via the UK in recent months as countries struggle to fill up their storage sites after Russia limited supplies, according to The Telegraph. 

With little storage of its own, Britain does typically buy gas back from the Continent during winter.

This year, it will leave the country exposed to higher prices and market havoc if Russia goes further.

Britain will be forced to buy back gas exported to Europe to keep the lights on this winter after giving away roughly 15 per cent of its supplies

Large volumes of fuel have been sent to the European Union via the UK in recent months as countries struggle to fill up their storage sites after Russia limited supplies

Large volumes of fuel have been sent to the European Union via the UK in recent months as countries struggle to fill up their storage sites after Russia limited supplies

Peter Thompson, a gas market expert at the consultancy Baringa, said: ‘Effectively the UK’s market stores gas in continental Europe storage, and then it’s pulled back out in the winter.

Big Christmas SWITCH-OFF: Festive fairy light displays cancelled by councils and twinkling tree decorations ‘unaffordable’ for families in face of soaring energy prices 

There is set to be less sparkle this Christmas with fairy lights being axed by councils and ditched by struggling families as electricity bills soar.

Extravagant festive light displays on high streets and homes are a tradition up and down the country during the winter months.

But now towns and villages known for their dazzling displays are deciding not to put up the lights this year and are cancelling popular switch-on events.

An extravagant Christmas light display on a house in Saxifrage Way, Worthing, in 2020

An extravagant Christmas light display on a house in Saxifrage Way, Worthing, in 2020

The council in the picturesque Devonshire town of Budleigh Salterton said it ‘could not take on the cost of the lights in the economic climate’, The Star reported.

Ely in Camridgeshire scrapped its display months ago as it said its typical £9,000 bill, which is likely to have increased by now, would not be a wise way to spend taxpayers’ money.

Guildford Council is also scrapping it’s switch-on event, with it’s leader saying last month that it ‘faces significant financial challenges’.

While the council is protecting the budget for its much-loved Christmas celebrations, it says it has concerns it cannot afford to accommodate the size of the crowd.

‘We cannot afford or justify value for money for such an additional significant cost,’ Council leader, Joss Bigmore, said.

Businesses, which do not have energy bill price caps, are also set to opt out of decorations and are even switching off their regular lighting already.

The house of Helen and John Attlesey in Soham in Cambridgeshire, decorated with hundreds of Christmas lights, pictured in November 2020

The house of Helen and John Attlesey in Soham in Cambridgeshire, decorated with hundreds of Christmas lights, pictured in November 2020

Expensive beer garden lighting is also being switched off at venues across the country as publicans face soaring overheads.

One pub owner told MailOnline he had been forking out £50 an hour to keep festoon lighting on. 

Meanwhile, concerned households are already planning to leave their Christmas lights in their boxes.

‘Not bothering with a Christmas tree – can’t afford to turn the lights on. Dark days,’ one person said.

Twitter users express concern that Chrsitmas lights will be 'unaffordable' this year

Twitter users express concern that Chrsitmas lights will be ‘unaffordable’ this year

‘All the folk that go mad for Christmas lights are going to have an expensive winter,’ warned another man on social media.

Another said: ‘Wonder how many families won’t be able to put outside Christmas lights on this year due to energy prices? Feel sorry for the children.’

But one Christmas fanatic refused to have their festive spirit dampened by the energy price crisis, tweeting: ‘We have LEDs everywhere, never will I sacrifice Christmas even if its just a week of lights’, while others recommended solar panel lights to keep the ‘gloomy’ winter at bay.

‘That’s normally what happens. But I think there is a question entering this winter – there’s no business as usual position.   

‘The extent to which that happens is going to depend on all sorts of things – Russian supply, how cold the winter is.’

On Friday, Russia said its key Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Europe would not reopen as planned.

Gazprom, the state gas giant, blamed technical problems but Russia is accused of weaponising supplies in retaliation over sanctions.

Europe does not have enough Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminals for its needs, so Britain accepted shipments at its three facilities on the EU’s behalf over summer.   

The product is then turned back into gas in Britain and piped over to Europe, which does not have enough LNG terminals of its own, via pipes to Belgium and the Netherlands. 

The EU’s sites are now currently 80 per cent full.

Local gas from the UK and Norwegian side of the North Sea is also being sent to Europe via the UK. 

National Grid estimates that these supplies account for about 70-75 per cent of current exports.

Ian Radley, director of system operations at National Grid, told an industry meeting last month that the UK is on course to export 14billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas to the EU by the start of winter, or about 14 per cent of total EU storage capacity.

He said: ‘The National Transmission System here in the UK has and continues to play a critical role in supporting the EU’s ambitions of refilled storage.’

Mr Radley added the practical challenges of its involvement ‘are dwarfed by the benefits of continuing to maximize export capacity, doing what we can do as a nation to alleviate what could be and continues to be a very challenging situation for everyone’.

Britain generally exports gas to Europe during summer, although normally at far lower volumes than this year. 

The country then imports during winter as its own demand rises.

Aurora Energy Research says that in a normal winter, the UK can get as much as 25-30 per cent of its gas supplies from the EU.

For imports to flow to the UK, prices need to be higher than they are in the EU.  

On cold days this winter, that could require exceptionally high prices in Britain, adding to the pressure on households and businesses following more than a year of soaring gas prices. 

If supplies in Europe worsens, there is a risk some countries will curb exports.

Aurora Energy Research estimates that the UK will need to import at least 10 per cent of its gas from the EU this winter to meet demand.

However, S&P Global Commodity Insights forecasts that Britain will be a net exporter to the EU this winter, because LNG shipments will continue to arrive.

It is likely to still need some EU imports on individual cold days, however.

Ying Chin Chou, a senior analyst at S&P, said that every one degree decrease in temperature can increase demand for gas for heating by 10-15 million cubic metres (mcm).

She added: ‘Demand can escalate quite quickly.’

S&P believes gas demand in Britain will in any case be 40mcm per day lower than normal this winter, or about 15 per cent less, as rising energy bills drive cuts in demand, among other factors.

Last week, Centrica won permission to reopen its Rough natural gas storage site in the North Sea, which closed in 2017.

However, it remains in talks with ministers about financial support for the site over the long term, and has not set a date for re-opening.

John Redwood, the Tory MP who is tipped to return to government if Liz Truss wins the Tory leadership contest on Monday, said it was a strategic ‘mistake’ not to have more storage.

‘Of course, I think we need more gas storage but my number one urging for many years has been getting more of our own gas out of the North Sea, and onshore where local communities go along with it.

‘But the UK position is an awful lot stronger than the German or Italian position, which were much more dependent on Russian gas.’

A spokesman for the Business Department said: ‘When the market price is higher Europe, gas flows to the Continent. When the price is higher in the UK, gas flows back home. This is driven entirely by the market, not by Government.

‘Britain is at a strategic advantage compared to other countries in Europe. The UK’s secure and diverse energy supplies will ensure households, businesses and industry can be confident they can get the electricity and gas they need.’

This comes as the scale of energy rationing that may be required at home, in the NHS, schools, care homes, shops, pubs and on the streets of Britain because of surging energy prices and the threat of blackouts is laid bare.

Experts have told MailOnline there is ‘no escape’ for the 66million people in the UK who will be encouraged to cut their use of gas and electricity this winter and even turn off the lights when the wind drops.

Kathryn Porter, from consultancy Watt-Logic, fears that the crisis will cost lives in the coming months and told MailOnline: ‘We should keep our fingers crossed for a warm and windy winter’. Ms Porter has said that it’s ‘very possible’ the UK will see plans for energy rationing, despite Liz Truss, the likely next prime minister, absolutely ruling it out, but the energy expert added: ‘It would be voluntary, asking people to make a small sacrifice to avoid blackouts’.  

Britons could be asked to limit energy use this winter to head off blackouts by avoiding using gas and electricity at peak times in a move that will hit every part of life.

At home people may be encouraged not to use washing machines, dishwashers and ovens between 2pm and 8pm while charging cars before 9pm is also not advised when similar measures were imposed in the US this year. Abandoning the family weekday dinner at 6pm or the Sunday roast at 5pm may be required and moved to after 8pm or swapped for a cold dinner or leftovers.

The NHS Confederation has predicted that the solution for the health service will ‘have to be made up by fewer staff being employed, longer waiting times for care, or other areas of patient care being cut back’. NHS England guidance says staff must turning off equipment and lights and better control temperatures in hospitals and surgeries.

Schools have even discussed three-day weeks and classes could be combined to reduce the number of rooms that require heating each day.

While care homes are being forced to take drastic action to absorb soaring living costs such as reducing menu options, using washing machines less and cutting down on entertainment and outdoor trips for elderly and vulnerable residents.

Pubs are already turning out the lights as soaring energy bills hit the ailing hospitality sector – with last orders at 8.30pm and closing by 9pm, food service being stopped and skeleton teams running venues to avoid financial ruin. Beer gardens are even being shut at night to save costs.  

And councils may choose to copy Germany where street lights are being dimmed, traffic lights at quieter junctions are turned off, hot water and central heating is off in public buildings and monuments will no longer be lit overnight. UK municipal swimming pools could be made colder to reduce heating bills.

 Millions could be forced to make sacrifices at home to avoid blackouts – but it could hit family life including delaying when they eat their dinner and swapping a hot meal for cold leftovers or a salad.

Kathryn Porter, from consultancy Watt-Logic, expects that authorities could ask consumers to reduce their use of electricity during peak hours, such as 2pm or 4pm to 8pm.

Parents and their children would be encouraged to eat later, or eat something that does not require cooking. 

In Texas and California, tens of millions of people have been asked not to use washing machines, dishwashers and ovens between 2pm and 8pm because of the global energy crisis and reduce strain on power stations. Charging cars before 9pm is also not advised.   

Ms Porter said: ‘People could do their laundry, cook hot meals before or after the time period’, but added that Britons must not ‘avoid cooking a hot meal if you have young children or vulnerable people in your home’.

‘It is possible we will see something similar here this winter,’ she said, adding: ‘I think it would be more an appeal or request for people to have their dinner earlier or later, or avoid using large appliances like washing machines during peak hours. I think it would be voluntary rather than compulsory’.

A lack of wind could also come into play.    

She said: ‘We have had quite low wind output in July and August…Demand is a lot higher in the winter, so if we have those weather conditions in the winter, our system is going to get very tight and that raises a risk of blackouts’. 

HOW BAD IS THE NHS CRISIS IN ENGLAND? 

The overall waiting list jumped to 6.73million in June. This is up from 6.61m in May and is the highest number since records began in August 2007.

There were 3,861 people waiting more than two years to start treatment at the end of June, down from 8,028 in May but still higher than April 2021, when the figure started to be recorded.

The number of people waiting more than a year to start hospital treatment was 355,774, up from 331,623 the previous month and the highest ever logged.

A record 29,317 people had to wait more than 12 hours in A&E departments in England in July. The figure is up from 22,034 in June and is the highest for any month since record began in 2010.

A total of 136,221 people waited at least four hours from the decision to admit to admission in July, down slightly from the all-time high of 136,298 in March.

Just 71 per cent of patients were seen within four hours at A&Es last month, the worst ever performance. NHS standards set out that 95 per cent should be admitted, transferred or discharged within the four-hour window.

The average category one response time – calls from people with life-threatening illnesses or injuries – was nine minutes and 35 seconds. The target time is seven minutes.

Ambulances took an average of 59 minutes and seven seconds to respond to category two calls, such as burns, epilepsy and strokes. This is three times longer than the 18 minute target.

Response times for category three calls – such as late stages of labour, non-severe burns and diabetes – averaged three hours, 17 minutes and six seconds. Ambulances are supposed to arrive to these calls within two hours.

Some 430,037 patients (27.5 per cent) were waiting more than six weeks for a key diagnostic test in June, including an MRI scan, non-obstetric ultrasound or gastroscopy.

Heavy industry users are also being braced to suspend or scale back production to protect supplies to homes.

Separately, contingency plans exist to dim the lights across parts of the country by turning down the voltage in the national cable grid in what are known as ‘brown outs’.

NHS treatment may also have to be rationed this winter because of ever-increasing energy bills, health bosses fear in the face of a mammoth backlog and crises in the A&E and ambulance sectors.

Startling projections reveal some trusts face spending twice, or even three times as much as they did last year on electricity and gas. 

Trusts aren’t covered by Ofgem’s 80 per cent price cap on electricity and gas, and so are even more vulnerable to surging prices in the coming months. As a result, health chiefs have had to ring-fence £1.5billion to fund the soaring bills.

Rory Deighton, of the NHS Confederation — which represents the healthcare system across England, Wales and Northern Ireland — said: ‘This isn’t an abstract problem.’

He said the solution ‘will either have to be made up by fewer staff being employed, longer waiting times for care, or other areas of patient care being cut back’.

The same organisation previously warned health bosses will inevitably have to make ‘impossible choices’ over the coming months, unless the ‘perilous’ situation is solved with billions more the public purse.

New technologies are often the first area to be cut when purse-strings are tightened. 

Diagnostic capacity will also be under threat, despite being a ‘key area’ in reducing the Covid-induced backlog that has left nearly 7million patients in England waiting for routine hospital treatment.

At the same time as soaring energy bills, critics have claimed that the NHS could see another £1.8billion ‘raided’ from its own budget simply to meet No10’s proposed pay rise for staff.

Department of Health bosses have rejected these fears, however.  

Analysts predict the health service will need at least another £4billion to account for spiralling costs. As a result, NHS chiefs are demanding another emergency top-up in the coming autumn’s budget.

‘That (£4billion estimate) is before we face a winter of even higher wholesale energy prices,’ the NHS Confederation added.

Right-wing think-tanks have repeatedly described the NHS as being a ‘blackhole of taxpayer money’.

Their argument — that the health service is in dire need of reform, not extra cash — is that its budget has drastically increased under the Conservative Government yet performances have worsened. 

Waiting times for routine ops, such as hip and knee replacements, shot up to record highs were way before Covid reached British shores. But the pandemic, and knock-on effects of lockdown, have seen queues hit an all-time high.

Ambulance response times have gone down the pan, so badly so that even heart attack patients have been left waiting three hours to be taken to hospital. 

HM Treasury data shows the NHS received £100.4billion in 2010/11 and its budget had grown steadily until 2019. In 2020, the NHS was given £129.7billion of core funding for its usual services, which was topped up with an extra £18billion to help with the pressures from the pandemic. For 2021/22 the Treasury said the health service is set to receive £136.1billion pounds of core funding, as well as £3billion to help with the Covid recovery

HM Treasury data shows the NHS received £100.4billion in 2010/11 and its budget had grown steadily until 2019. In 2020, the NHS was given £129.7billion of core funding for its usual services, which was topped up with an extra £18billion to help with the pressures from the pandemic. For 2021/22 the Treasury said the health service is set to receive £136.1billion pounds of core funding, as well as £3billion to help with the Covid recovery 

A&E performance has also plunged to dire levels, with waiting times worse than ever. Campaigners have called the situation ‘apocalyptic’.  

The NHS in England already gets £150billion a year, compared to roughly £100billion just a decade ago.

Under Boris Johnson, it was promised an extra £30billion a year through the highly-controversial levy to get ‘back on its feet’ after the pandemic. 

But Liz Truss, the frontrunner to replace him as Prime Minister, has already pledged to divert all of that to social care, which is simultaneously being battered by its own crisis. 

Shower at the gym, charge your phone at WORK and how to cook dinner for the family for £5: how Brits are turning to tips on TikTok to survive raging inflation amid the cost-of-living crisis

By Brittany Chain

Britons are turning to TikTok for tips and tricks to stay afloat as the cost of living crisis deepens.

Budget recipes and energy saving hacks are flooding the social media app while the #costofliving hashtag has more than 490 million views.

Content creators, jumping on the public’s concern about soaring prices, have been sharing ideas on how to cut spending in creative ways, like showering at the gym and charging your electronic devices in the office or on public transport.

The conversation extends even beyond the videos themselves, with viewers using comment sections on popular accounts to share their own hacks and search for tips.

One video suggested charging all electronic devices before October 1, when the energy price cap set by regulator Ofgem will jump by up to 80 per cent to reflect the rising cost of wholesale energy.

The suggestion attracted criticism from some who pointed out that most iPhones require a daily charge – but the original poster said he was referring to the ‘random devices’ that may not be as frequently used.

Meanwhile users in the comment section took the hack one step further by revealing they plan to take their electronic devices into their workplaces to recharge them. 

Pictured: A tip about charging electricity devices

Pictured: A tip about showering at the gym

Some of the tips gaining popularity on TikTok include showering at the gym and strategically charging electronic devices

‘My phone is permanently on charge at my work… I leave the air pods charging until the afternoon,’ one user said.  

Others said they plug in power banks while they’re in the office to take home, which they can later use to charge larger items. 

Gymgoers have also been encouraged to start showering after their workouts rather than waiting until they get home.

While this tip isn’t particularly useful for people who aren’t actively using a gym membership, creators said they’re ‘going to the gym anyway’ and found it a good way to shave some of the cost of their electricity bills.

‘I never shower at home nowadays,’ one creator said. 

Another added: ‘Not even joking me and my other half did this and the water bill went from £85 to £28.’ 

Gymgoers have also been encouraged to start showering after their workouts rather than waiting until they get home

Gymgoers have also been encouraged to start showering after their workouts rather than waiting until they get home

Budget recipes are also flooding the app as Britons look to save money on groceries.

Father-of-three Mitch Lane has gained more than a million followers on TikTok by sharing budget meals for £5 or less that can be easily replicated at home.

His @mealsbymitch account first took off during the initial Covid lockdown when people found themselves stuck at home without the option of dining out.

Some of his recipes include pasta bake, churros, burgers and chilli con carne.

Single mum Jo Rourke runs TikTok account @thismumcooks and offers viewers tips about how to keep the cost of their food shop down.

She told Sky News: ‘I suddenly realised that there were a lot of people who didn’t quite know what to do in regards to buying in bulk to save money, and I thought I’d start sharing these things, because it’s what I have do. It’s how I shop, it’s how I’ve always shopped.

‘I’m a working single parent with three children so I understand how tough it can be because there’s a lot of pressure on kids to have certain things… It’s about finding a balance, particularly now.

‘I think everyone is going to struggle. So people that historically have been able to afford to eat whatever they want to eat, are going to find that they have to start making different choices.’ 

Prices surged by 11.6 per cent in August, the fastest increase since the global financial crisis in 2008, according to research firm Kantar. Pictured: How products have gone up in price

Prices surged by 11.6 per cent in August, the fastest increase since the global financial crisis in 2008, according to research firm Kantar. Pictured: How products have gone up in price 

The exorbitant rises in grocery costs are expected to hit Britons hard at the hip pocket – with families facing a £533 jump in annual grocery bills.

Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar, said the UK is in the midst of the second highest inflation period for groceries since 2008.

Prices surged by 11.6 per cent in August, the fastest increase since the global financial crisis in 2008.

It means the average household grocery bill will shoot up by £533 this year – the equivalent to £10.25 every week.

The rise was attributed to sharp increases in essential products such as milk and butter, which have risen by 25 per cent and 23.5 per cent since last year respectively. 

Burgers, halloumi and coleslaw all costing 13 per cent, 17 per cent and 14 per cent more than the same time last year, according to fresh industry data from market researchers Kantar.

Pictured: Mealsbymitch gnocchi

Pictured: Mealsbymitch churros

Father-of-three Mitch Lane has gained more than a million followers on TikTok by sharing budget meals for £5 or less that can be easily replicated at home

Supply chain issues and labour pressures have added to costs in food production, which are now being fed back to shoppers.

Experts hasve said there is ‘no escape’ for the 66million people in the UK who will also be encouraged to cut their use of gas and electricity this winter and even turn off the lights when the wind drops.

People may be encouraged to avoid using washing machines, dishwashers and ovens between the hours of 2pm and 8pm. The move could help to prevent potential blackouts over the winter. 

Schools have even discussed three-day weeks and classes could be combined to reduce the number of rooms that require heating each day.

Pubs are already turning out the lights as soaring energy bills hit the ailing hospitality sector – with last orders at 8.30pm and closing by 9pm, food service being stopped and skeleton teams running venues to avoid financial ruin. Beer gardens are even being shut at night to save costs.

And councils may choose to follow Germany by dimming street lights and turning off the traffic lights at quiet junctions. 

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