Foreign players join British power game to supply electricity
Posted on: 09/12/2015

France, the Netherlands, and other countries are competing this week to supply emergency electricity to Britain during peak winter demands. The government is holding the auction as to guarantee enough power will be produced, aiming to secure 45 gigawatts of electricity for the winter of 2019-20, by paying generators that promise to supply back-up powers at short notice. This will be the first time that foreign suppliers have been allowed to participate.

The interconnectors across the English Channel and the Irish Sea already play an important role in Britain’s electricity market, providing roughly 7% of national peak electricity demand. As more British power plants are shut down, there are plans in place to lay seven more subsea cables. Denmark and Iceland are two contenders, who would have the potential to deliver more than seven gigawatts of additional supply.

However, this decision by the energy department to include interconnectors in the auction has met criticism, with operators claiming that subsea links enjoy an unfair competitive advantage. Peter Atherton, energy analyst at Jeffries, emphasised that French and Dutch power station operators were exempt from high UK carbon taxes.

The idea is to provide back-up for less flexible sources of electricity, such as wind and solar energy, and provide investment required to replace older power stations. Last year’s auction costed the government roughly £1bn, and failed to deliver much in the way of new generating capacity because the auction price was considered too low to provide an incentive for the construction of new power stations.

As ageing coal and nuclear stations are closing, the system has become increasingly important. According to research published in September, up to a fifth of Britain’s electricity supplies could be imported by 2022. Last month, Amber Rudd, the energy secretary, indicated that the capacity auction system needed to deliver new gas-fired power stations in order to see improved results for Britain.

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