Record supply to France good news for UK gas power

The UK has registered a record amount of electricity being exported to France as gas-fired power plants were boosted by freezing conditions on the continent.

French prices for Wednesday climbed to the highest since November as temperatures were forecast to fall below zero, boosting electricity demand. The UK exported electricity to France for most of the day apart from peak times through the 2,000 MW interconnector cable linking the countries.
UK interconnectors to Europe
Rob Lalor, analyst at EnAppSys told Power Engineering International that historically the French Interconnector has always pushed more power into Britain than back into France and since March 2012 there have only been 3 months in which net imports from France along this interconnector have been negative; these three months have all fallen since October 2016. 

"Imports from France are generally high, as the French power grid usually has an excess of available generating capacity as a result of their large nuclear fleet, and with these nuclear plants having very low variable costs for generating additional power, it makes sense for these plants to spill power into neighbouring markets when this excess of available capacity exists.”

“This activity is bad news for gas-fired generators, which find their market for generation reduced in size by these power imports and the recent reversal will have been a very welcome boost to gas-fired generators which have been incredibly low levels of utilisation in the market since 2012.”

The week beginning 16th January 2017 has so far - supported by low levels of coal generation, low wind speeds, high demand and low levels of power imports from France - resulted in Combined Cycle Gas Turbine (CCGT) plants generating at their very limits of availability, with the coal fleet seeing only a slight back down from full availability levels.

Lalor says this activity does not suggest that the grid is at risk of blackouts, since the market has a large supply of reserve capacity sitting behind these quoted levels, but does offer an interesting insight into the challenges of a modern power system and in particular the challenges in countries moving towards a greener renewables backed system whilst managing an ageing nuclear fleet.

“Indeed the comparisons between France, Britain and other markets such as Germany with similar legacies this winter offer great insights into how far modern markets have evolved and provide insights into what might be required in order to evolve these systems further towards their ideal end goal."

UK CCGT Fleet Performance this week:

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