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Fire at French interconnector sends electricity prices soaring

Wholesale electricity prices have soared after a fire at an interconnector linking the French and British power networks, the National Grid has reported.

The IFA Interconnector that meets the UK in Sellindge can carry about 2GW between the two countries but the National Grid said a fire has forced a complete evacuation of the site.

Following the incident, it was forced to notify the wholesale electricity market that 1000MW would be unavailable until 27 March 2022 as a result. This is in addition to another planned 1000MW outage until 25 September that has caused electricity prices to soar.

The IFA connector was the first cross-Channel link, completed in 1961 with an initial 160MW capacity. This was eventually decommissioned in 1984 and replaced by a second link capable of carrying 2GW in 1986.

Another cable linking the two electricity systems, IFA-2, was also completed earlier this year, although yesterday’s incident will not have any impact on it, the National Grid added.

Prices of electricity on the day-ahead market peaked at £2,500.01 per MWh for delivery between 7pm and 8pm on the N2EX exchange, with an average daily price of £424.61.

This compares with an average in August of £106.83, and an average across 2020 of £35.26.

A National Grid spokesman said it expects to “continue supplying electricity safely and securely” despite the incident.

It added: “Our investigation is ongoing and we will update the market with any changes as necessary.”

The connector had been importing electricity from France in recent days as the UK’s wholesale prices continued to rise.

In recent months, the soaring cost of natural gas and a warm, dry and windless start to autumn 2021 caused record prices on the market.

This is combined with the fact that some generators that were mothballed over summer have yet to restart, making wholesale electricity prices surpass their highest-ever level even prior to the interconnector fire.

Earlier this week, the GMB Union called for a new generation of nuclear power plants in order the help UK meet its 2050 net-zero carbon emissions pledge.

National Grid recently erected the world’s first ‘T-pylon’, which is shorter than traditional high-voltage pylons and has a smaller footprint on the ground.

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