Ireland restricted power exports to the British market last week because the Irish grid operator Eirgrid was under pressure to balance domestic supplies as a cold snap hit.
A spokesman for Eirgrid said on Wednesday that such actions were “not infrequent” in light of ongoing challenges to the security of supply.
The restriction came as French and British grid operators narrowly missed having to declare a power-supply emergency during cold weather that coincided with low wind generation.
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The UK was due to export electricity to France during peak evening demand on March 7th. National Grid’s control room issued a rare market warning of a looming shortage which couldn’t be addressed through usual measures such as asking plants to generate more or by cutting consumption.
The company asked French counterpart Reseau de Transport d’Electricite (RTE) to sell back some of the exports that were due to flow to ease the situation, but the French grid said no, slides published on Wednesday show. RTE said it needed the power and would have to ask for Emergency Assistance, a rarely used status.
RTE said it could only send power if Britain declared an emergency alert. National Grid instead fired up reserve coal-fired power plants for the first time to ease the situation, the slides showed.
Last week’s situation underlines the fragility of Britain’s energy system as old coal and nuclear plants shut down. Electricity imports via huge cables that run under the sea to markets in Europe like France and Norway are a key part of Britain’s energy security strategy. The UK network has struggled to balance the grid at times this winter when cold weather boosted demand wind output was low. The Irish restriction came because of the same pressure.
“This is not an infrequent occurrence, in light of the ongoing security of supply challenges over the last 18-24 months,” the Eirgrid spokesman said. – Additional reporting: Bloomberg