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UK running out of gas, National Grid warns

Perfect storm of freezing weather and supply problems prompts rare call for more fuel immediately

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “UK running out of gas, warns National Grid” was written by Adam Vaughan, for The Guardian on Thursday 1st March 2018 15.36 UTC

National Grid has warned that the UK would not have enough gas to meet public demand on Thursday, as temperatures plummeted and imports were affected by outages.

But the government said households would not notice disruptions to their supply or any increase in energy bills because suppliers, including British Gas, bought energy further ahead. The energy minister Claire Perry said people should cook and use their heating as they would normally.

Britain was self-sufficient in gas from the North Sea until 2004 but declining domestic production means that 60% of the country’s gas is now imported. National Grid, which operates Britain’s national energy networks, believes the reliance on imports could reach 93% by 2040. Norway provides nearly two-thirds of UK gas imports via pipelines, while Qatar provided 29% of imports in 2015 via ships carrying liquefied natural gas.

But experts said there was a strong chance that industrial users could experience interruptions to their gas supply.

Within-day wholesale gas prices soared 74% to 200p per therm after the formal deficit warning, which acts as a call to suppliers to bring forward more gas. It is the first time such an alert has been issued since 2010.

By lunchtime on Thursday the price had spiked even higher, hitting a high of 275p per therm at one point.

National Grid’s forecast for the day initially showed a shortfall across the day of 49.5m cubic metres (mcm) below the country’s projected need of 395.7mcm, which would normally be around 300mcm at this time of year. The gas deficit warning aims to fill the gap, which has since narrowed to 16.5mcm.

“We are in communication with industry partners and are closely monitoring the situation,” the company said.

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Widespread snow and temperatures of -7.8C due to the “Beast from the East” and Storm Emma have prompted consumers to fire up their heating. Public health authorities recommend an indoor temperature of 18C.

Gas demand is now at a five-year high, according to the market watchers S&P Global Platts. Simon Wood, a gas analyst at the group, said: “There’s a strong chance you’ll see some interruptions for industrial users to balance the system.” Big energy users such as car manufacturers have supply contracts which can be interrupted in return for lower prices.

The situation has been compounded by several supply outages, which can relate to very cold weather. There have been problems with a pipeline to the Netherlands, reductions in gas flows from Norway, and technical issues at facilities in the UK, including at the North Morecambe Barrow terminal.

The crunch is also the UK’s first big energy security test since the country’s biggest gas storage facility was closed by Centrica last year. The Rough site in the North Sea had accounted for 70% of the UK’s gas storage.

gas price chart

The UK is currently drawing on gas stores around the country, and on liquefied natural gas at the Isle of Grain, in Kent, and at Dragon, in South Hook, Wales.

Gas storage is at the lowest level since records began in 2006, primarily because of the closure of Rough. The UK has about 0.7bn cubic metres (bcm) of gas stocks, out of a total capacity of 1.3bcm. That total used to stand at 4.5bcm.

Wood said that ensuring there was enough gas in the next few days would be “touch and go”. Normally, energy demand dips at the weekend but that effect will be limited this Saturday and Sunday because cold temperatures keep more people indoors and bump up household demand.

One analyst said that while this week’s short-term problem had been caused by a “perfect storm” of unrelated issues, the government had failed to take long-term action on gas supplies and cut demand by encouraging energy-efficient homes.

“The UK is largely isolated in its dependency on gas, with a huge over-reliance in the power and heating sectors. Experts have long warned about putting too many eggs in the same basket, with events such as today the undesirable outcome,” said Jonathan Marshall, energy analyst at the ECIU thinktank.

Labour accused the government of failing to plan for the winter by allowing Rough to close, and said it would insulate 4m homes as a priority.

The government is due to meet an alliance of energy intensive industry groups and trade unions after they wrote to the business secretary, Greg Clark, last November demanding an inquiry on gas storage and supply.

gas locator map

“We’ve had the Forties [pipeline] disruption [in December], other events in January and February. We envisage the frequency of these will increase, and this will have impact on gas prices. This requires an inquiry,” said Clive Moffatt, speaking for the group, whose members include ceramics and paper firms.

The shale industry claimed today’s deficit warning demonstrated the UK’s need for “homegrown” gas supplies extracted by fracking.

The jump in gas prices is much higher than the one in December after a large North Sea pipeline was closed for repairs. The high price of gas, which is expected to last for the rest of the week, has also had an impact on electricity supplies, leading to a surge of dirty coal power.

The amount of electricity generated from oil in February was up 81% on January, and over the last seven days more than a fifth of power came from coal, according to MyGridGB.

Power prices, which would usually be around £45-50 per megawatt hour at this time of year, spiked at an astronomical £990 per MWh on Thursday.

• This article was amended on 8 March 2018 because an earlier version abbreviated megawatt hour to mWh.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II, has died

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Buckingham Palace has announced that The Duke of Edinburgh has died.

Philip Mountbatten, the rakish naval officer who captured the heart of a young Elizabeth Windsor and became the lifelong consort to the British queen, has died aged 99.

The death ends the longest marriage of a reigning monarch in British history, an enduring alliance that outlasted the Cold War, war and peace in Northern Ireland and the painful divorces of three of their four children.

Reacting to the death, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said;

“Prince Philip earned the affection of generations here in the UK, across the Commonwealth & around the world.

He was the longest serving consort in history & one of the last surviving people in this country to have served in WW2.”

Prince Philip never held the official title of Prince Consort, but he was Queen Elizabeth II’s closest confidant, most reliable political advisor and the undisputed master of the royal household for more than six decades.

Philip was known equally as a curmudgeon and a charmer who could quickly put nervous guests at ease with an easy one­liner.

The Queen, on the event of their golden wedding anniversary in 1997, said of her husband: “He has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years.”

The Duke is survived by his wife, Queen Elizabeth II, and his children Charles, Prince of Wales; Anne, Princess Royal; Prince Andrew, Duke of York and Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex.

While Elizabeth presided over affairs of state, Philip championed dozens of charities, including the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, which has promoted self­reliance, physical development and other personal accomplishment for more than 6 million youths all over the world.

(more…)
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Biden Expected To Repeal Military Trans Ban Tomorrow

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The Biden administration is expected to repeal the ban on transgender Americans from serving in the military, multiple people informed of the decision told CBS News. The announcement is expected as soon as Monday, one senior Defense official and four outside advocates of repealing the ban told CBS News.

The senior Defense official told CBS News the repeal will be through executive order signed by President Joe Biden. The announcement is expected to take place at a ceremony with newly-confirmed Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who will order the Pentagon to go back to the policy enacted in 2016 by former Defense Secretary Ash Carter that allowed transgender Americans to serve openly.

The White House did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

The new order will direct the branches of the military to outline an implementation plan. 

The ban was announced by former President Trump via a tweet in July 2017. The ban took effect in April 2019 and barred transgender Americans from enlisting in the military.

In 2014, it was estimated there were around 15,500 transgender military members serving, according to a study by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law.

Biden frequently repeated on the campaign trail his promise to repeal the ban.

Austin said at his Senate confirmation hearing last week that he planned to repeal the ban.

“I support the president’s plan or plan to overturn the ban,” Austin said on Tuesday when asked by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, “I truly believe, Senator, that as I said in my opening statement, that if you’re fit and you’re qualified to serve and you can maintain the standards, you should be allowed to serve. And, you can expect that I will support that throughout.”

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Trump Pardons Steve Bannon In One of His Final Acts As 45th President

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(CNN)— President Donald Trump has decided to pardon his former chief strategist Steve Bannon, in a last-minute decision made only hours before he is scheduled to depart the White House for a final time.

Officials cautioned CNN that Trump’s decision was not final until he signed the paperwork. Trump told people that after much deliberation, he had decided to pardon Bannon as one of his final acts in office.

Bannon’s pardon would follow a frantic scramble during the President’s final hours in office as attorneys and top aides debated his inclusion on Trump’s outgoing clemency list. Despite their falling out in recent years, Trump was eager to pardon his former aide after recently reconnecting with him as he helped fan Trump’s conspiracy theories about the election.

It was a far cry from when Trump exiled Bannon from his inner circle after he was quoted in a book trashing the President’s children, claiming that Donald Trump Jr. had been “treasonous” by meeting with a Russian attorney and labeling Ivanka Trump “dumb as a brick.” Those statements from Bannon drove Trump to issue a lengthy statement saying he had “lost his mind.”

“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my presidency,” Trump said at the time.Things shifted in recent months as Bannon attempted to breach Trump’s inner circle once again by offering advice before the election and pushing his false theories after Trump had lost.

Since Trump’s election defeat, the President has leaned further into his expansive pardon powers — granting pardons to his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, longtime ally Roger Stone and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, among others.

Among Trump’s pardons earlier in his term were those for former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, right-wing commentator Dinesh D’Souza and financier Michael Milken.

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