Britain relies on Belgium for power amid heatwave pressure

Prices on cross-Channel interconnector hit record levels

Much of the UK's infrastructure struggled to cope with the extreme heat. Getty
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Britain had to pay more than 10 times the usual price to buy electricity from Belgium as the cost soared following last week's heatwave, analysts have said.

Prices on the Nemo link, a 140-kilometre cable under the English Channel, reached a record £9,724.54 ($11,119.01) per megawatt hour at one stage on Wednesday.

A more normal price would be well below £1,000.

Analysts at energy tracker EnAppSys said the price surge was caused by constraints on the British network, possibly linked to the two-day heatwave on Monday and Tuesday.

The heatwave brought record 40ºC temperatures to the UK and led to a spike in electricity demand, as many people turned to air conditioning in a country that rarely uses it.

To add to the pressure, a storm front was moving over Belgium that limited solar power capacity, and the heatwave across Europe may have reduced the output from wind turbines, the analysts said.

“With the stress the Belgian system was under it is probably no coincidence that the cost of purchasing energy from Belgium was high,” they said.

The summer strains come amid concerns over how Europe will cope with potential gas shortages this winter if supplies from Russia completely dry up.

Britain's grid operator sent out two automated warning notices to the market last week signalling that more power needed to be generated, the Daily Telegraph reported.

The UK has interconnectors with France, Ireland, Belgium, the Netherlands and Norway which send power in both directions.

The cables cover Britain's needs when its main workhorses of gas, nuclear and wind are not generating enough power. Imports and exports were broadly equal on Monday.

Britain and Belgium agreed in principle in February to build a second link.

In the north of England, thousands of households suffered power cuts as Britain buckled in last week's heat, with trains and aircraft grinding to a halt and many people choosing to stay at home.

In addition, solar panels are less efficient in extreme heat and the optimum temperature is about 25ºC, an industry group in Britain said, with records set in the spring rather than summer.

Still, it said solar power provided about a quarter of Britain's electricity at the height of last Tuesday's extreme heat.

Updated: July 25, 2022, 10:10 AM
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