Britain faces the prospect of gas rationing for the first time, experts have warned.
Energy expert Ann Robinson told the Independent: “If this dreadful weather continues for the next two or three weeks we should be very worried, because if we get into a position where we do run out of gas there is not a lot that can be done in the short term."
The Government has denied the UK is on the brink of running out of gas following weeks of unusually cold weather.
It had been reported that there were only two days' worth of gas left in reserve as a result of the cold snap, with gas stocks 10% full, compared to 49% this time last year.
But a Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) spokeswoman said: "Protracted cold weather increases demand but the UK gas market is responsive and our gas needs are continuing to be met.
"Gas storage would never be the sole source of gas meeting our needs, so it is misleading to talk purely about how many days' supply is in storage."
She said that while half of the nation's gas needs were supplied from the North Sea, there were also pipelines from Norway and elsewhere in Europe, shipments of liquefied natural gas and storage.
The Times (£) is reporting that the recent cold snap has left Britain drained of nearly its gas supplies, sparking fears of a spike in energy prices.
Households have been forced to turn up their heating as the freezing weather continues, pushing the demand for gas to 20% higher than normal in March, the paper claims.
Last night gas stocks were just 10% full, compared to 49% this time last year, it said.
Energy prices will soar if Britain is forced to make up the shortfall by importing more liquefied natural gas from elsewhere, an energy expert warned.He said that Britain would struggle to cope if a technical problem caused a North Sea gas field to shut down.
Andrew Horstead of the energy consultancy Utilyx told The Times: "There is immense pressure on the existing infrastructure."We are almost maxed out from imports through pipelines. The big concern is that there is very little flexibility left in the system."
It comes as the head of the energy giant SSE warned of the "very real risk" of the lights going out in Britain.
The head of the energy giant SSE warned of the "very real risk" of the lights going out in Britain.
Ian Marchant said the Government was underestimating the problem, as he announced plans to cut back on power generation at five sites because the stations are either uneconomic or coming to the end of their lives.
It appears the Government is significantly underestimating the scale of the capacity crunch facing the UK in the next three years and there is a very real risk of the lights going out as a result.
He said the energy watchdog Ofgem had recently expressed real concern about the tightening of the UK's generation capacity margin that would follow expected plant closures in the next few years, predicting a 1:12 chance of the lights going out.
It is unlikely that the majority of the reductions in generation capacity and the delays to new investment we have announced today will have been included in this analysis, which highlights that the situation is likely to be even more critical than even they have predicted.