Last weekend the Italian cable manufacturing company, Prysmian, released a statement announcing to the markets that the Western Link High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) interconnector between Hunterston and Deeside had failed again, on the 10th of January. This grid link, which is a joint venture between Scottish Power Transmission (SPT) and National Grid (NG), employs cables manufactured by Prysmian.
This £1 billion project has a peak transit capacity of 2.25 GW and was designed solely to facilitate the export of Scottish wind power to the English and Welsh markets. In doing so it was expected to reduce constraint payments to wind power, payments which amount to £630m since 2010, with a record £130 million in 2019 alone.
The project was expected to come online at the end of 2015 but in fact did not become fully operational until late 2018 and has been plagued with faults ever since.
The interconnector may have reduced the rate at which constraint payments are increasing but it has not reduced the total payments. Hopes that this situation might improve in 2020, with the interconnector now in full operation, have been dashed by this latest failure. Unsurprisingly, there has been an increase in constraint payments after the most recent fault, though they were already high when the failure occurred. Payments this month so far amount to £21 million, a record for January, and the sixth highest monthly total on record.
Furthermore, and in spite of the presence of the interconnector, the prices paid to constrain wind off the network have not fallen, and remain greatly in excess of the income lost, undermining the claim that they are fair compensation. A reasonable person observing that the prices asked for by wind farm owners vary between 20% and 80% in excess of lost income will conclude that this is an indication of profit taking and an exercise of market power, and will think it remarkable that the regulator has not intervened.
This story has been covered in the Scottish press (Times, Daily Mail, Daily Record) and on STV television news. But it is now becoming a national story, with growing concern that decisions taken by the Scottish government are causing highly significant increases in consumer costs to households and businesses in England and Wales. The Sunday Telegraph has this weekend (19.01.20) published a detailed account: Wind farms paid up to £3 million per day to switch off turbines.

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