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UK Will Import More Power from Neighbouring Countries in the Future

LV-HVDC-Iceland-UK-London-august-2012-1According to the UK National Grid, the UK will import more power from neighbouring countries in the future as the country’s electricity margin continues to tighten. The Financial Times recently wrote about how one of the new subsea electric cables to be constructed is likely to be a cable between UK and Iceland (sometimes referred to as the IceLink):

Swiss engineering group ABB last year commissioned a 262 km interconnector to link Ireland’s grid to the UK’s. National Grid is also working on interconnector projects with Belgium, Denmark, Norway and Iceland. About 5-7 GW of additional capacity could flow from the new interconnectors over the next decade or so, said Mr Bonfield. However, some of the interconnector projects are more feasible than others. A link between UK and Iceland may be the best economic option.

LV-HVDC-Iceland-UK-London-august-2012-2Net electricity imports cost the UK about GBP 365 millions in the past six months of 2013, two and a half times more than two years previously, according to data supplied by ICIS, the price reporting agency. Electricity imports can be cheaper than those produced by UK suppliers and are a small but growing part of the country’s overall power supply. Power is produced in France and the Netherlands and imported via subsea interconnectors. Electricity flows both ways but the UK currently buys more than it sells. And there will be a rise in Uk’s power imports, says Andrew Bonfield, National Grid’s chief finance officer .“[This is] because there is a pricing differential which we believe will be beneficial to the country, and ultimately customers.”

National Grid will invest about GBP 3.5 billion this year, most of which will go towards reinforcing its UK transmission infrastructure. Power imports should help National Grid level out peaks and troughs from renewable energy production and deal with the UK’s diminishing electricity margin, which represents the safety cushion of spare power generating capacity (National Grid previously said that the electricity margin during peak demand in cold weather will be 5 per cent, down from more than 15 per cent in the winter of 2011-12). IceLink could become an important part of this strategy, opening access to Iceland’s 100% renewable power geothermal- and hydro power generation.

The two illustrations above are from a presentation by Mr. Hörður Arnarson, CEO of the Icelandic Power Company Landsvirkjun, presented in August 2012.