French power cable fire causes Britain’s electricity prices to spike

Spoke pours from substation (power cable fire)

A fire in a power cable connecting British and French electricity systems has sent British electricity prices sky high, reports the New York Times.

Already inflated prices have risen to several times the norm since the power cable fire, with day-ahead power prices reached £481.88 per megawatt-hour, according to trading platform Epex Spot.

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The fire occurred at a National Grid site in Sellindge, near the English Channel, and will leave the cable out of service for about six months, said National Grid. The cause of the incident is still under investigation.

Twelve fire engines were needed to tackle the flames, according to Kent Fire and Rescue Service.

Another component of the cable is under maintenance until September 25. These combined outages involve enough electricity to power two million homes.

The incident illustrates how British electric power systems are feeling the pressure of a rapid push for renewable energies. With the closing of coal and nuclear plants and increasing demand from a country emerging from the pandemic, Britain has limited power margins for situations like the National Grid fire.

In addition, Britain’s wind turbines have been suffering from low winds off the coast.

“This incident has put more pressure and reliance on flexible generation sources, such as coal, gas and batteries, to ensure the lights are kept on,” said Catherine Newman, chief executive of Limejump, a large-scale battery management company.

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High natural gas prices in Europe add to the dilemma. Europe’s reserve supply is limited after a jump in gas consumption by China and other countries. 

According to the New York Times, Britain’s energy regulatory agency has warned customers that standard energy rate ceilings will be raised by ten per cent.