Workers at Britain's biggest power station have threatened to hold a series of strikes they claim will raise the risk of power cuts.
Trade union Unite claims the walkouts will effectively shut down the Drax Power Station, in North Yorkshire, straining electricity supplies and making it harder to keep the lights on.
The station can generate up to 4 gigawatts of electricity at full capacity, or roughly 7pc of national demand.
Unite’s decision to hold industrial action on February 20 and 27, March 6, 13, 20, 27 and April 4, 10 and 17 follows a dispute between the union and managers over pay.
Around 180 of the power station’s 470 staff will be involved in the industrial action, after Unite members narrowly voted to reject the offer of a 8pc pay increase.
Strike action “will close Drax down,” the union claimed, warning that Britain “could face power cuts” as a result.
Drax denied the walkouts would render the power station inoperable. It is understood that non-striking staff could be reassigned to keep all four biomass-burning units online. A spokesman said the company had “robust plans in place."
Separately, the boss of one of Europe’s largest energy suppliers warned that factories and households will need to cut energy use even more to avoid another surge in oil and gas prices.
Anders Opedal, chief executive of Norway’s Equinor, said “a further reduction in demand” would be needed to help refill gas storage sites.
Russian supplies that helped fill storage stocks for this winter have been largely cut off, leaving Europe more reliant on shipments of liquified natural gas from around the world.
Mr Opedal said: “Most likely we'll also be able to refill the storage for next winter. But that will require a further reduction in demand.
“There are unknowns such as the weather, both in Europe and Asia. Any supply disruption will also have an impact on the market. So I would say it's a little bit of a nervous market going forward.”
Both Europe and the UK have already cut energy use to get through this winter, with EU member states agreeing to cut gas demand by 15pc. In the UK, the Government launched an energy-saving campaign.
Equinor, which is majority-owned by the Norwegian state, became Europe’s largest supplier of natural gas last year, overtaking Russia. It is also the UK’s largest supplier.
On Wednesday the company posted a record $74.9bn (£62bn) profit, becoming the latest fossil fuel producer to report soaring returns following a year of high oil and gas prices.
In recent weeks prices have been declining from the highs reached last summer and this week the average pump price of diesel dropped below 170 pence per litre, shaving more than £16 off the cost of filling up a 55-litre car compared to last July.
Simon Williams, fuel spokesman at the RAC, said: “This is good news for drivers of diesel vehicles as they have had to endure some tough times with the average price of a litre nearly hitting £2 at the end of June.”
Wholesale diesel prices leapt following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 amid concerns about disruption to supplies as Russia is a major exporter of the fuel.
However, they have started to cool with Russian supplies still getting into the market, and other sources opening up to Europe.
Mr Williams said if retailers “play fair” with drivers, the price at the pumps should fall further given the relatively low wholesale prices, which are currently about 52.07p in the UK.
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