National Grid fire: UK energy prices soar after Kent cable blaze shuts off power link between UK and France

British electricity prices jumped after a blaze at a National Grid site at Sellindge in Kent shut off a key power link

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A fire has caused a key power link between the UK and France to be shut off, causing wholesale electricity prices to soar.

The blaze broke out at a National Grid site at Sellindge in Kent in the early hours of Wednesday (15 September) morning.

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The site was evacuated and no reports of casualties have been made.

What did the National Grid say?

The National Grid said the fire occurred at the Interconnexion France-Angleterre (IFA) site in Kent.

Electricity interconnectors are high-voltage cables that connect the electricity systems of neighbouring countries, allowing them to share excess power.

Due to the blaze and planned maintenance, the IFA interconnector will now be completely offline until 25 September.

Only half of its two gigawatt capacity is expected to be available until March 2022.

The link can carry up to 2GW of power and had been importing electricity from France in recent days, after UK prices hit a record high of £540 per MWh on the wholesale energy market.

A National Grid spokesman said it expects to “continue supplying electricity safely and securely” despite the incident.

It added: “Our investigation is ongoing and we will update the market with any changes as necessary.”

The IFA2 interconnector, a second link between Britain and France, is currently operating at its full capacity and has not been affected by the fire.

The 1GW connection is a £700m shared investment with French power firm RTE and the UK’s fourth power exchange with continental Europe.

How much did electricity prices rise?

On Wednesday (15 September), British electricity prices jumped by 19% on the day-ahead market.

Prices peaked at £2,500.01 per MWh for delivery between 7pm and 8pm on the N2EX exchange, with an average daily price of £424.61.

By comparison, in August prices were just £106.63 on average.

The spike in prices has fuelled concerns over inflation and the potential impact on businesses as the UK economy starts to recover from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Rising energy prices has been a key concern for economists in contributing to inflation hitting a nine-year high in August.

Analysts are now closely watching the National Grid’s efforts to get its site fully back online as energy demand increases with winter approaching.

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