Our friends electric: interconnection and Brexit

20180116

When French president Emmanuel Macron holds talks with UK prime minister Theresa May on Thursday, the future of Anglo-French trade after Brexit will be high on the agenda. To most people, that conjures images of boats and trains ferrying physical goods across the English Channel. Less obvious, but arguably just as important, are the electrons transmitted through subsea cables linking the UK and French electricity grids. Interconnectors have been promoted by both governments — and by the EU — as a way of increasing the flexibility and resilience of the European electricity system in an era when rising production of intermittent wind and solar power is making supplies more volatile. However, the UK vote to leave the EU has called into question Britain’s role in this increasingly integrated regional power market. “It is ironic that we are leaving the EU just at the time when we need to become more interconnected with the EU energy market,” says Simon Virley, head of UK power and utilities at KPMG, the professional services group, and a former senior official in the UK energy department. Cross-border interconnection allows countries to supplement their own domestic generating capacity with imported power when supplies are tight, and to export surpluses when demand is higher elsewhere. This capability is becoming increasingly important as a way to balance peaks and troughs in renewable power generation. On windy days, when the UK has more generating capacity than it needs, spare electricity can be exported to continental Europe, where weather patterns may be different. On days when the UK is short, it can fall back on nuclear power from France, hydro generation from Norway or gas, coal and renewable generation from across the continent. The EU’s internal energy market ensures that electricity can be traded seamlessly, without tariffs or regulatory hurdles. The same applies to gas supplies via cross-border pipelines. Mr Virley says a UK exit from the EU single market implies leaving the internal energy market as well. Future access to the market is dependent on agreement in the wider Brexit negotiations. “Whilst most in the energy sector want the current tariff-free harmonised trading arrangements on gas and electricity to continue, in future we may not have much say on the rules that govern those trades,” says Mr Virley. “Instead, like Switzerland, we may end up as observers at the key decision-making bodies.” Uncertainty over the future terms of cross-Channel trade in electricity has raised doubts over billions of pounds of planned investment in increased interconnector capacity. There are currently four operational interconnectors between the UK and the rest of the EU: one each with France and the Netherlands and two with the island of Ireland, which has its own integrated energy market between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. At least 12 more UK interconnectors are at varying stages of construction or planning, five with France and others with Belgium, Denmark and Germany, as well as with non-EU Norway and Iceland. If all these projects were completed, the UK’s interconnection capacity would increase from its current 4 gigawatts — about 7 per cent of peak domestic demand — to more than 20GW. That would be equivalent to more than double existing UK nuclear power capacity. The more advanced projects are proceeding, but people involved in some of those at an earlier stage say more clarity is needed on post-Brexit arrangements to give confidence to investors. One of the proposed Anglo-French interconnectors is being developed by a company called Aquind, whose investors include Alexander Temerko, a Ukrainian-born British industrialist and large Conservative party donor. He says his project will go ahead irrespective of Brexit but wants Mrs May to raise the issue of energy trading when she meets Mr Macron at the Sandhurst military academy in Berkshire on Thursday. “Technically, our project is very important for the EU as well as the UK,” says Mr Temerko. “Brexit doesn’t change the economic or technical case for interconnection, but politically it is not good because it creates instability.” Michael Fallon, the Conservative MP and former energy minister, says there are strong mutual incentives to prevent barriers to electricity trading after Brexit. The UK is usually a net importer from the rest of the EU, making it a valuable market for EU energy companies. But there have also been sustained periods over the past year when maintenance shutdowns of French nuclear plants have caused a reversal in the usual trend. “Whether you are a Leaver or a Remainer, it is in the long term strategic interest of Britain that there is a genuine energy market across Europe,” says Sir Michael. The UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, says the UK government “continues to support interconnector projects and efficient electricity trading with our European neighbours”. Referring specifically to the Anglo-French links, it added: “Even further interconnection would deliver significant benefits both to the UK and France and we will continue to engage with industry and the French government in support of interconnector projects.”

Ист.: Financial Times - UK, Ссылка: https://www.ft.com/content/eb2...
Темы:Энергетика, Транснацики,

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