Cities and towns across southeastern Europe have been left without electricity as freezing conditions saw power plants undergo unplanned outages and hydropower production plummet.
Paul Verrill, director of EnAppSys consultancy spoke to Power Engineering International about the potential implications if the freeze drifts towards northern Europe and the UK in terms of assessing the effectiveness of a pan European energy sector.
"The freezing conditions that are heading our way and across Europe should give us an idea of whether we have commercially functioning true pan European energy market that can be relied upon to deliver energy to the areas of highest prices or, a market where national interests kick in when margin gets tight."
Bloomberg reports that Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia deployed emergency services to evacuate remote villages where people were stranded without electricity or heat, as temperatures dropped to minus 20 degrees Celsius.
The Balkan region is particularly dependent on hydro but because of the freeze production has dropped drastically while consumption has inversely risen. Some nuclear reactor closures have compounded the problem.
23,000 Bulgarian and 14,000 Hungarian households were left without electricity.
Bulgaria declined emergency requests for power from Greece and Turkey amid heavy snowfall, Energy Minister Temenuzhka Petkova said Tuesday in the capital Sofia. The country was itself turned down by Romania two days ago and Greece said it would stop electricity exports to Bulgaria from noon Wednesday.
Power prices have risen to $210 per megawatt hour In Hungary as a knock on effect of the conditions.
From Croatia to Turkey, the unusually cold weather in the Balkans may persist throughout the week, according to MDA Weather Services.
The Greek government has asked consumers to avoid unnecessary power consumption during peak hours in the evening.
Verill told Power Engineering International, if the 'winter peak' demand rolls across Europe as expected then the resultant market prices and energy flows will provide some indication of how much reliance a country can place on interconnectors.
"The political implications of power cuts have resulted in country's having numerous backup and standby reserve mechanisms that might be about to be tested and potentially expanded upon if any power cuts do occur in any European countries."
"These mechanisms have preserved a lot of excess generating capacity in Europe and these will be used strategically to keep the lights on. Looking at the forward markets we are seeing higher prices in those countries based upon when the cold front is expected to hit and this indicates a functioning market."
"On balance it seems unlikely that we will see a breakdown of the energy market, due to national interest, but we could expect to see the use of UK Supplementary Balancing Reserve and notices of stress events. This could come as high prices on the continent attract power from the UK to flow into Europe on forward contracts leaving less power in the GB market to satisfy the peaks. The result could be very high intraday and balancing prices as National Grid uses the last of the GB market power before it can use its supplementary balancing reserves."