It seems like there will be no end to the cold, winter weather, even though it’s now officially spring. Cold temperatures well below the seasonal average, and continued snow flurries have brought misery to many and forecasters say the cold snap is set to continue well into April.¯¨
As a result, people have been using their heating much more than they usually would at this time of year. But while it’s been necessary for people to keep their radiators on into the spring, it has resulted in a shortfall in British gas reserves, with some newspapers reporting there was less than two days’ supply remaining.
Facts behind the headlines
However, there are a number of factors leading to the alarmist headlines in the press and one of those is the fact the UK’s reserves of gas are never particularly big anyway. In normal circumstances, the UK tends to have enough gas stored to last about a fortnight. This is in comparison to places like Germany and France, which are able to store three or four months’ worth of gas at a time. The reason for the low levels in the UK is that there simply isn’t enough space to store more without investing in more storage facilities. Doing that would be difficult due to cost and deciding where new storage facilities should be built.
The storage figures are somewhat misleading because Britain already imports a significant amount of gas via pipelines and tankers and shortage of reserves has meant an increase in the amount of gas we import. However, problems sometimes occur, such as last week when a pipeline transporting gas from Belgium stopped working for a few hours, prompting a dramatic rise in wholesale gas prices. Prices returned to normal once the problem was resolved and consumers won’t see any increase as a result, but it does show how volatile the market can be at a time like this, and with the long-term weather forecast looking bleak, the situation has led some to wonder if the country could face the prospect of gas rationing in the coming weeks.
Keeping warm is the most important thing
With efforts being made to make sure UK supplies don’t run out, rationing shouldn’t come be an issue but it never hurts to keep an eye on your own energy use.
Don’t use more than you need but don’t avoid putting your heating on if you are cold. In freezing temperatures, it can be very dangerous to have your rooms below the normal room temperature of 20C. Eco-proofing your home with methods like insulation and energy-saving light bulbs can help you save money in the long run, meaning your bank balance takes less of a hit when you have to have your heating on well into the spring months.