UK’s energy exports to France over 11-hour period laid bare

Autumn Statement: Jeremy Hunt outlines further energy support

We use your sign-up to provide content in ways you’ve consented to and to improve our understanding of you. This may include adverts from us and 3rd parties based on our understanding. You can unsubscribe at any time. More info

New figures have revealed exactly how much GB’s grid has sent across to France in the space of 11 hours – a total of 26.81MW. The data comes from Imports – GB grid and shows the energy movement across the Channel to UK’s European neighbour. It comes amid plummeting temperatures in the UK bringing snow and icy conditions to many towns and cities. The significance of this nuclear sharing comes after France’s electricity network operator RTE asked the National Grid if it could slash its scheduled exports to Britain in half. It wanted to do this between 8am and 9am yesterday morning. Both countries exchange energy via interconnectors, with the UK normally relying on French energy imports to help meet demand, particularly during peak hours in the early evening.

But yesterday, the French market reportedly came under stress, prompting France to limit its energy exports to the UK, and as figures indicate, to then later to import energy from Britain.

It came as National Grid ESO (the UK network’s operator) put two coal units at the Drax power unit on standby as a precaution to ensure that Britain was not plunged into darkness as snow blanketed the country and demand surged.

It later cancelled the backup plan and urged the nation to keep using energy as usual, claiming that if anything, the plan should have come as a reassurance that energy supply was secure. But in France, the situation appeared more worrying. 

Phil Hewitt, a director at energy market analysis firm EnAppSys, said yesterday: “The French market was particularly under stress today. It was always going to be in trouble because of the reduced nuclear reactor fleet, the temperature is low and there has been a big demand spike combined with low wind.”

But despite National Grid standing down the coal units, the poor weather conditions are still causing problems for the UK, with freezing temperatures and low wind levels affecting prices and power generation. Simon Cran-McGreehin, head of analysis at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, said this is making it harder for Britain to balance the grid.

However, he did note that it is normal for amounts of energy exchanged to and from France to vary, although he suggested that we can expect British exports across the Channel to increase in the coming months. 

Mr Cran-McGreehin said: “Interconnector flows vary all the time, partly based on demand at each time.  Those examples are from around breakfast time, when our demand is not too high, so we have more spare generation to export – that doesn’t cause issues for UK energy supplies.  Conversely, exports would be low (or even we’d have net imports) at times of peak UK demand – i.e. to help ensure that we have enough when we need it most. 

“But all this will be tighter this winter because there’s less nuclear available on the continent, and so they’ll have less for us to import and they’ll be looking for more UK exports.”

Speaking on the challenges the UK grid is facing, he said: “The challenges this winter are due to the gas crisis and faults at nuclear power plants limiting how much we can import, making it harder to balance the power grid and driving prices sky-high.Power prices are being driven to extremes by the gas crisis and issues with nuclear imports, especially when they’re not being offset by renewables. 

“Once stronger winds return, prices will fall back, so it’s sobering to think that, if the UK had not invested in renewables over the years then much of the winter would be like this current week, with expensive gas keeping prices high even on windy days.”

And he warned that the issues may also have an impact on energy bills, which have already been soaring astronomically due to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine and his supply cuts to Europe. 

Mr Cran-McGreehin continued: “These price spikes affect our bills, but fortunately won’t be passed on immediately or fully.  Ofgem’s price cap will be higher next year, partly reflecting the high winter prices for gas and electricity – but part of that bill will be paid by the Government’s price freeze, so households will be shielded from some of the volatility of the gas crisis.

“The issues with nuclear imports and gas power mean that we might have to use some coal power plants this winter – this will come at a high price, but hopefully they’ll only be used for short periods.  National Grid will also be using options like payments to reduce demand at peak time – which is a win-win, helping to manage the grid and giving some cash to businesses and households.”

DON’T MISS 
NASA hits milestone as James Webb captures oldest known galaxies [REPORT] 
OVO CEO vows to ‘step up’ with energy lifeline to slash bills [INSIGHT]
Wholesale electricity price in UK soars to record high as solar slumps [REVEAL] 

But he noted that there is one way that the UK can avoid seeing prices skyrocket. He added: “Energy storage is one way of limiting prices, allowing us to use more of our cheaper renewables and less of the expensive gas power. 

“We’ve made a start, and have five times as much battery storage now than last winter, and eight times as much as today in the pipeline – plus there are plans to more than double our pumped hydro capacity.  These developments will put us in a better position for if another gas crisis strikes in future.”

Energy storage allows the UK to keep excess energy produced by renewables during periods where the power does not need to be rolled out to households and industries across the grid. Without storage, this energy can potentially go to waste if it has nowhere to go, throwing away billions of pounds.

But thanks to the interconnectors linking Britain to France, the UK can also send electricity to France when demand here is low, and vice versa. For instance, while the UK has been sending energy to France over the last few hours, yesterday, Britain was importing energy from France between 9am and 9pm, according to interconnector dispatch data from EnAppSys and seen by Express.co.uk. 

But France did also “request and receive a reduction in the anticipated exports to GB between 8am and 9am via an emergency TSO to TSO instruction” (an instruction from France’s network operator to the UK’s), according to Mr Hewitt.

Speaking exclusively to Express.co.uk, Mr Hewitt added: “The GB market, despite the high prices at the day-ahead, traded low all day because it booked the interconnectors into the country. France suffered with a couple of emergency events in the morning and evening because it was exporting power to GB.” Mr Hewitt even noted that between these hours, France was “importing from every country in Europe and exporting to GB”.

Dr Jeff Hardy, Senior Research Fellow at the Grantham Institute, Imperial College London, told Express.co.uk: “Interconnection is a good thing as it diversifies our supply, enhancing electricity system resilience. France has been suffering from nuclear power outages, which has led to a tight electricity market in France. Historically, France has supplied the UK with cheap power from its nuclear fleet. Now, it needs help, which is exactly why interconnection is a good thing for European security.”

Source: Read Full Article