One of Britain’s most important electricity import cables, the 2000 MW IFA undersea link between the UK and France, will not return to full service for another two years according to its owner National Grid. The shutdown will only compound the UK’s energy supply challenges ahead of a difficult winter season. 

A fire on 15 September at the Sellindge converter station in Kent forced a shutdown of the high-voltage cable, which is a two way link but is mostly employed to import electricity from France to the UK, as energy prices soared to all time highs amid global energy supply problems. National Grid expects half of its capacity to return to service on 20 October, but said extensive work would be needed to bring the power link back to full service. It hopes to bring another 500 MW of capacity back to service between October 2022 and May 2023. The cable is expected to return to full service after further work, which National Grid hopes to complete by October 2023.

National Grid, the UK’s system operator, has warned that the cable outage combined with planned shutdowns at gas plants and the retirement of two nuclear reactors brings new risk of power cuts to commercial and domestic users this coming winter.

The operator’s annual winter outlook report said the UK had enough capacity to avoid blackouts affecting households and factories but tight supplies were likely to keep market prices at near record levels throughout the winter.

UK homes and businesses face some of the highest energy bills on record because of the global increase in demand for gas, which has led to very high market prices.