National Grid: Interconnectors vital to UK energy stability

Interconnectors will play an increasingly important role for the National Grid as it strives to 'keep the lights on' this winter, according to the company's new Winter Outlook report.

The report, published today (15 October), looks ahead at the picture of supply and demand for both the gas and electricity systems for the coming winter.

The National Grid is assuming net electricity imports of 1.1GW  from Europe – a massive increase over last year, when interconnecter imports were net zero. The report also predicts a slight uptick in the amount of gas used for power generation, as the price of coal and gas is closer than ever before.

National Grid’s director of UK market operations Cordi O’Hara said: ”Electricity margins are manageable throughout the winter period and we believe we have the right tools in place to manage the system. On the gas side, supplies are expected to be comfortable this year, thanks to good availability of liquefied natural gas on the global market and stable flows from the North Sea and Norway.”

Crying wolf

the Winter Outlook concludes that Britain has enough gas and electricity to ensure there will be no blackouts through the winter months. Gas supplies are expected to be “comfortable” while electricity margins, at 5.1%, are “manageable”.

The Outlook supports a report released earlier this week by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), which claimed that media reports of ‘blackout Britain’ were wildly overexaggerated.

The ECIU said that mainstream UK newspapers have carried nearly 500 articles over the last decade warning that the lights would go out imminently, despite only one known example of a UK power cut related to problems with generation.

It also rubbished claims that the rising importance of renewables would have a negative impact on the grid, pointing to the example of countries like Germany and Sweden, where energy storage and interconnectors have helped balance supply and demand.

More renewables?

Tanuja Randery, the president of energy management firm Schneider Electric, said the best way to improve tight capacity margins was a combination of active network management and actually increasing the importance of renewables.

She said: “In the long term, there must be a continued focus on creating a system that uses less energy and gains more power from renewable sources.

“Investment in renewable energy must be encouraged as a means of avoiding future energy crunches. Just 9.5% of the UK’s electricity was generated by on- and offshore wind in 2014, but much more green energy production is possible. Cuts to subsidies and the curtailment of significant renewable energy projects needs to be reviewed, and quickly.”

Brad Allen

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