Britain at risk from US- style power cuts.
ENGINEERS were battling last night to restore power to the 50 million people hit by the blackouts in the eastern United States -and Britain was warned that it too could face huge power failures unless consumers were prepared to pay more for electricity.
The cause of the failure, which also hit Canadaand stranded thousands of Britons following the cancellation of transatlantic flights, is still unkno wn.
Power was slowly being restored yesterday to some of the 9,300 square miles which has experienced the worst blackout in American history. But in areas like Michigan, customers were bracing themselves for a dark weekend.
In New York,lights flickered back on before dawn in parts of Manhattan but millions faced the morning rush hour without underground rail services and not imetablefor the full restoration of power.
Fears of a terrorist cause were ruled out by President Bush,but it appeared that the cause of the problem was still amystery.
With planes and crews stranded in the wrong places around the globe, six British Airways flights due to leave Heathrow yesterday for the US and Canada were axed.
A Virgin Atlantic flight bound for New York was cancelled, while three services heading to Boston, Miamiand Newark suffered anything from 50 min ute to three-and-a-half-hour delays.
And in Britain, a former energy minister said electricity prices would have to rise to guard against energy blackouts at home.
Brian Wilsons aid increased competition in the energy market had pushed down the cost of electricity, but this meant there was no `` over-capacity'' to deal with possibleblackouts.
His comments came after a Government energy adviser warned that Britain could suffer a blackout on a par with America's as early as this winter.
Professor Ian Fell,also an adviser to the World Energy Council, said: ``A blackout could happen here. I have come to the conc lusion there is a 20pc chance of power cuts next winter.
``National Grid have themselves said on record, if we have a cold winter, they cannot guarantee supplies of electricity.''
The Department of Tradeand Industry played down comparisons with the UK system,but added that the implications for the UK would be assessed once the cause of the American blackout was kno wn.
``There are significant differences between the way UK and US energy netw orks operate,'' a statement said.