Converter station fire shuts down France-UK interconnector

20 September 2021

A fire at the National Grid’s converter station at Sellindge, southern England, on 15 September has shut down the IFA interconnector linking the UK grid to that of France.

Twelve fire crews were sent to the site, which was evacuated by National Grid, and there have been no reports of casualties.

National Grid ESO stated it expects to "continue supplying electricity safely and securely" but that there would be a reduction in the amount of electricity available to the network until 13 October. However the loss of the 2 GW link, which is a net importer of power from France, and not expected to return to service until next March, will put a strain on the UK network which is already facing a supply crunch that has seen market prices surge to a record £2500 per MWh, the clearing price for the hours of peak demand at one of the UK’s main electricity auctions on 15 September, compared to the 2019/2020 norm of £40. It is being reported that as a result coal plants are being warmed up to meet the expected increase in demand as temperatures reduce during the autumn.

The UK faces record energy prices after a global gas market surge raised the cost of running gas power plants, a factor that has been compounded by a string of power plant outages and low wind speeds. Energy price highs are expected to cause a string of small energy supply companies to fail, and have already forced some steelmakers to shut their factories during hours of peak electricity demand. Market experts fear this latest blow to the UK’s power system could cause prices to rise further and will increase the UK’s reliance on running its last remaining coal plants.

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