(Bloomberg) -- The UK appointed a czar to ensure it can keep the lights on this winter as Russia’s war on Ukraine threatens to deepen Europe’s energy crisis.
Jonathan Mills, previously in government as a director of energy strategy, took up the role of director-general of winter resilience earlier this month, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said in a statement.
“Energy security is an absolute priority,” BEIS said, after officials warned that around 6 million British households could face power cuts this winter in a worst-case scenario if Russia halts gas supplies to Europe.
“Any responsible government has to plan for extreme possibilities,” Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng told lawmakers on Tuesday, adding that “I’m not expecting anything in that line or to that extent.”
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, Kwarteng requested that preparations for a winter energy crisis be accelerated. The energy and security portfolio has swelled in recent months and will now be split, with Mills’ brief aimed at enhancing the UK’s security of supply.
In seeking urgent solutions to the power crunch, Kwarteng has laid out plans to keep coal-fired plants on standby in case extra supplies are needed.
Read more: War Derails Plan to Ditch Coal After UK Championed Global Cuts
Those measures echo steps taken in other European countries, with efforts to ban dirty energy slowing down as the war drives up gas and power prices, stoking inflation and raising the specter of recession.
The change of tack by the UK in particular highlights how energy security has turned into the top political priority in such a short time for a government that declared the end of coal at the COP26 climate summit less than a year ago.
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