French nuclear outages threaten higher UK power bills

31st October 2016 | Residential Energy

French nuclear outages threaten higher UK power bills this winter: there are problems with France’s nuclear power sector which could increase energy bills for UK consumers this winter because of a squeeze on the supply of imported electricity.

There have been safety concerns over the resilience of certain components in several French reactors, and this has cut the amount of French electricity available for export to Britain: Britain has relied on imports for more than 7 per cent of its electricity so far this year and most of this has come via underwater interconnectors with the French and Dutch power grids.

France’s problems have already caused power price spikes in continental Europe as the country has had to increase its own imports of electricity from neighbours, including Germany, to fill its supply gap.

There are likely to be repercussions for Britain. In recent weeks, imports have fallen, so that for 14 days in October, Britain has exported more electricity than it has taken in: according to data from PA Consulting, Britain has not been a net exporter for more than two days a month since 2014.

Britain’s power network is under pressure from the closure of coal-fired plants as part of efforts to reduce carbon emissions, and this change of balance threatens to put more strain on it. The choice for Britain is as follows: pay a higher price to keep electricity coming from the continent, or lower its imports, and this at a time when demand for heating a lighting will be at its highest.

And since the Brexit vote to leave the EU, the pound has fallen against other currencies, which is also adding pressure to energy prices by increasing the cost of imported gas. Business customers have already seen significant price increases recently: 10-12% for electricity and 6-7% for gas.

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