A fire has knocked out a key facility in Kent where electricity from France arrives by undersea cable, worsening the UK’s energy supply crunch.
The blaze at the National Grid substation in Sellindge, near Ashford, was reported at 12.32am on Wednesday, according to Kent Fire Brigade.
The facility links subsea cables known as interconnectors with electrical grids, transmitting power from France, the UK’s biggest supplier of energy.
Sellindge serves two interconnectors, the two-gigawatt Interconnexion France-Angleterre (IFA) 1 and the one-gigawatt IFA 2.
Data from National Grid showed that IFA 1 stopped supplying power to the UK shortly after midnight and will be offline until mid-October, but IFA 2 is still operating.
National Grid said the site had been evacuated.
More than a dozen appliances were called to battle what the emergency services called “a large blaze”, using compressed air foam to prevent it spreading to other buildings.
A status update issued at 9.15am said progress was being made, but firefighters were expected to remain on site for several hours.
The incident comes at a critical time for the UK with power supplies already short, pushing prices to record highs.
UK gas futures surged almost 12pc on Wednesday to a record 184.6p per therm. A lack of wind in Britain is boosting demand for gas, and also pushing up power prices.
Britain is a net importer of energy and relies on a series of interconnectors under the Channel and North Sea to power the country, with France by far the biggest supplier.
National Grid has warned several times recently about the strain the UK’s power system is under and that the “buffer” of generation needed to keep the lights on is shrinking.
The pressure will only increase as the weather turns colder and the “heating season” starts, further increasing demand.
Earlier this month National Grid called for two coal-fired generators to be turned on to meet demand.
The utility group has said that its modelling of potential issues, including a scenario where an interconnector is inoperable and demand is high, the margin of power in reserve would be the smallest in years.
A further signal of the problems National Grid faces came last week when it was forced to ask France to send less power across the Channel because of technical problems.
Supply and demand of power has to be closely matched to avoid causing surges that can cause power cuts.
However, an issue with an energy trading platform meant orders for power could not be executed, causing too much energy to flow through interconnectors from France.
The IFA 1 – which draws power largely from nuclear plants in France – pumps more energy into the grid than all the UK’s windfarms.
Its two-gigawatt capacity outstrips the 1.67 gigawatts being provided by wind farms in the UK, and is only slightly behind the 2.65 gigawatts provided by solar power.
Of the 35 gigawatts of UK power demand several hours after the fire, 57.7pc was generated from fossil fuels, 21.5pc from alternative sources such as pumped storage, nuclear, biomass, 13.5pc from renewables and 7.5pc from interconnectors.
Adam Lewis, partner at Hartree Solutions, an energy trading company, told Bloomberg: “With margins already tight for this winter [the outage] will tighten those margins further, resulting in higher UK power prices. This is also likely to tighten the UK gas markets as the UK will need to substitute imports with its own generation.”
The outage could have serious knock-on effects on energy-intensive industries, which are under pressure from already high prices and competition from European rivals that face lower power costs.
One sector likely to be hit, especially if the outage drags on, is the steel sector.
Gareth Stace, director-general of trade body UK Steel, said his members were already facing “extortionate prices” that have forced some steelmakers to suspend operations.
He added that at time of intense demand, steel companies are being quoted “energy costs in the thousands per megawatt hour. Last year, prices were roughly £50 per megawatt hour. Even with the global steel market as buoyant as it is, these eye-watering prices are making it impossible to profitably make steel at certain times of the day and night  https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2021/09/15/fire-knocks-key-electricity-cable-france/

SAS Volunteer

We publish content from 3rd party sources for educational purposes. We operate as a not-for-profit and do not make any revenue from the website. If you have content published on this site that you feel infringes your copyright please contact: webmaster@scotlandagainstspin.org to have the appropriate credit provided or the offending article removed.


Leave a Reply

Avatar placeholder

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *