Doubling interconnectors could save UK $1.66bn a year

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A report published by the UK National Grid makes a compelling case for the UK to focus its attention on investing in more interconnection with neighbouring countries.

According to the report, entitled Getting More Connected, the UK can save around $1.66bn a year by doubling its present 4 GW interconnection capacity.

Spokesperson for the National Grid, Isobel Rowley, told Power Engineering International that more needs to be done from a regulatory perspective to faciliate interconnection.

"As the report points out, there is very broad support for development of further interconnection. However there is still work to be done on the detail of the regulatory and legal frameworks in order to secure investment."

She added that, "the last meeting of the European Council  decided to ask the European Commission to propose an interconnector target for 2030. In particular, the Council Conclusions say “the objectives of completing the internal energy market by 2014 and developing interconnections […] remain a priority”. It then re-states the need to achieve the so-called ‘Barcelona target’ (established in 2002) by calling for the “ speedy implementation of all the measures to meet the target of achieving interconnection of at least 10 per cent of their installed electricity production capacity for all member states.” National Grid report

At the moment the country has four interconnectors linking the country to the power grids in France, Ireland, the Netherlands, and Northern Ireland. The report argues that doubling to 8 GW would enable the UK to get closer to the European benchmark of covering 10 per cent of its generation capacity with interconnectors and would also result in cost savings of around £1bn a year, by giving the UK access to lower power, and often cleaner electricity, from the continent.

It highlights how targeting interconnections could cut wholesale power prices by as much as 2 per cent.

"It is estimated that each 1GW of new interconnector capacity could reduce Britain's wholesale power prices up to 1-2 per cent," the report states. "The benefit will arise because the analysis expects British wholesale electricity prices to remain higher than those in neighbouring countries into the early 2020s, benefiting British consumers through net imports."

The report goes on to say, "Interconnectors allow low carbon electricity to flow between European countries more easily and could enable carbon and renewables targets to be met more cost effectively," the report states. "Significant volumes of low carbon electricity could, for instance, be imported into GB from hydropower in Norway, wind power in Ireland and Denmark, nuclear in France and hydropower/geothermal energy in Iceland. As renewable electricity forms an increasing part of the energy mix, interconnection is becoming an important tool in managing the intermittent power flows associated with these sources."

The government’s secretary of state for energy, Ed Davey, is on record for saying interconnection can help reduce consumer bills as well as resolve energy security issues.

Mr Davey said, "across Europe we must fully implement the EU's energy liberalisation legislation by the end of next year and facilitate investment in the physical links that make the interconnections possible".

"It just doesn't make sense for Europe to fail to leverage the potential advantage of a single energy market," he added. "We must get real about cross-border infrastructure, and fast."

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