UK becoming too reliant on EU to keep its lights on

24th May 2018 | Commercial Energy

The government is overlooking the risks of relying on supplies that may not materialize, according to a report by Oxford, England-based Aurora Energy Research Ltd. Electricity on interconnector cables flows to where prices are more expensive, making supplies difficult to predict or control.

“The contribution of interconnectors to security of supply is unknown, and, to a significant extent, unknowable,” said Aurora Chief Executive Officer John Feddersen. “Government has so far overlooked this inconvenient fact.”

Historically, interconnectors have often delivered less power than National Grid Plc, the system operator, assumed they would when demand is at its highest, according to Aurora. On some occasions, the cables have even undermined security of supply by exporting to neighbouring countries during peak demand periods.

The UK has links with France, the Netherlands and Ireland, as well as one to Northern Ireland, which shares a power market with its southern neighbour. Britain plans a further 18 gigawatts, equivalent to almost a third of peak demand. Usually interconnectors import cheaper power from the mainland but the winter of 2016 to 2017 showed flows can reverse if both the UK and continental power markets have unusually high demand.


“Reducing the reliance placed on interconnectors for security of supply would enable Britain to retain the benefits of freer flow of electricity with Europe, while ensuring sufficient domestic back-up capacity exists in the event that interconnectors prove to be less reliable than Government currently assumes,” Feddersen said.

Interconnectors participate in Britain’s capacity auction, where generation competes for contracts for being available in future. In the last auction 2.4 gigawatts of interconnection won agreements, pushing out coal and gas plants. Operators including Drax Plc and RWE AG, say that interconnectors can’t provide the same reliability as a conventional plant.

“They cannot be relied upon in the same way as domestic generation,” said Tom Glover, chief commercial officer of RWE Supply & Trading GmbH. “The government should carefully consider the impact of relying on significant increases in imported electricity for security of supply.”

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