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Boris Johnson has ordered Britain’s last coal-fire power power plants to remain open this winter – as Downing Street failed to rule out blackouts for millions of Brits.

Gloomy Government modelling warned up to six million households could be affected by power cuts this winter in a “reasonable” worst case scenario triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

No10 did not rule out the prospect of blackouts this winter but insisted the National Grid and the Government were not expecting shortages.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has written to the owners of Britain’s three remaining coal-fired power plants – Drax, Ratcliffe and West Burton -to ask them to delay shutting down the facilities.

The heavily polluting fuel source is due to be phased out by as part of the Government’s plans to slash carbon emissions.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has asked for the UK’s remaining coal power plants to delay closure ( Getty Images)

The three plants had been scheduled to wind down operations by September.

Asked if there would be blackouts, the PM’s deputy spokesman said: “You would expect the Government to look at a range of scenarios to ensure plans are robust, no matter how unlikely they are to pass.

“Neither the Government nor the National Grid expect power cuts this winter.”

He said the UK was in a “fortunate position” as it is not dependant on Russian imports – and denied there would be energy rationing this winter.

Pressed on whether this was a worst case scenario plan, the spokesman said: “We have plans which will set out reasonable worst case scenarios.

“That’s what they are. They are not forecasts, they are possible scenarios.”

Downing Street confirmed that a request had been made to keep coal power plants running.

The spokesman said: “It’s only right that we explore a wide range of options to bolster our energy security and domestic supply.

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“While there is no shortage of supply and we have a secure energy system, we may need to make our remaining coal fire power stations available to provide additional back up electricity this coming winter if needed.”

No10 denied that keeping the lights on was taking precedent over tackling the climate crisis and said the UK’s commitment to end coal power by October 2024 remained in place.

Earlier, Tory minister Chris Philp said the Business Secretary was also considering whether Hinkley Point B nuclear plant “might continue beyond its planned end of life”.

It comes after the Times reported that limits could be imposed on industrial use of gas, including on gas-fired power stations, causing electricity shortages.

Government modelling of a “reasonable” worst-case scenario predicts major gas shortages in winter if Russia cuts off more supplies to the EU.

This could result in electricity rationing for six million homes, primarily during morning and evening peaks, in curbs that may last more than a month.

Worse modelling is reported for a scenario in which Russia cuts off all supplies to the EU.

A Government spokesperson said the request for the power stations in Drax, Ratcliffe and West Burton, which were due to shut in September, to stay open was made “in light” of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“It is only right that we explore a wide range of options to further bolster our energy security and domestic supply – bringing down costs in the long term,” the spokesperson said.

“While there is no shortage of supply, we may need to make our remaining coal-fired power stations available to provide additional back-up electricity this coming winter if needed.

“It remains our firm commitment to end the use of coal power by October 2024.”

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