Q4 2016: French nuclear crisis cuts imports

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by Dr Iain Staffell – Imperial College London 

Q4 was the first time in six years that Britain was a net exporter of electricity to France. 

Britain exported more power in one week of November than over the whole of 2014 and 2015 combined. The French nuclear industry went through its “worst situation ever” with up to twenty nuclear reactors offline for safety tests, leaving the country at risk of a capacity shortage in the event of severe cold weather.

Britain has typically been a net importer as prices on the continent have been lower – helped in part by French imports not paying the carbon price floor or fees for using our transmission system. However, power prices are now around three times higher in France than in Britain, trading at €140 / MWh for January.

Britain cannot make the most of this export opportunity though as half of the French interconnector was taken offline in November. A boat is thought to have dropped anchor during Storm Angus, damaging four of the eight cables which are buried in the seabed. The link is now limited to 1,024 MW, and repairs by National Grid will take until the end of February to complete.

Interconnectors are expected to play an increasing role in Britain’s generation mix and security of supply, so it is important to be aware of the many external influences affecting their availability.

Weekly average power transfer over the French interconnector:

Authors: Dr Iain StaffellProfessor Richard GreenDr Rob Gross and Professor Tim Green

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