Since Russia invaded Ukraine, European leaders have rushed to end their dependence on Russian gas, with Russian President Vladimir Putin threatening to cut off its supply to EU countries in retaliation for Western sanctions. Europe’s energy problems have only worsened in recent months, after reactor problems at French EDF power plants forced record shutdowns of nuclear power plants in France. As a result, the UK electricity system acted as a savior for the EU, becoming a net exporter of electricity for the first time since 2017.
National Grid figures have revealed that since early April Britain has been a major exporter of electricity to Europe, supplying countries such as France, Belgium and the Netherlands via submarine cables.
This is a significant change, as the UK has generally been a net importer of electricity from Europe, particularly during times when renewable energy generation is low.
France’s energy problems play a major role in this reversal, as the country faces its lowest nuclear output in more than a decade after more than half of France’s nuclear reactors shut down in recent months. .
Many aging EDF reactors whose lifespan has been extended by a decade have been shut down for refueling or maintenance.
However, several other reactors have been forced to shut down after a report revealed corrosion safety issues inside one of the reactors, which could lead to accidents.
Speaking to Express.co.uk, Dr Bernard Laponche, co-author of the study, previously warned that cracks caused in reactors due to these issues could risk a “Three Mile Island or Fukushima-type accident. “.“.
Following these corrosion problems, four 1500 MW, seven 1300 MW and one 900 MW reactors were shut down.
Meanwhile, Britain’s gas-fired power stations have benefited from record gas supplies as shipments carrying huge quantities of liquefied natural gas have arrived at ports across the country.
READ MORE: Russia unleashes furious EU blast as nations battle for energy
Since the gas shipped to Britain was far more than it could pump to Europe through pipelines, service stations were able to use this excess for power generation.
Joe Camish, the principal analyst at consultancy Cornwall Insight, noted that energy problems in France have pushed electricity prices in the country to record highs “which has led to the regular appearance of [Great Britain] to French exports.
Energy consultancy EnAppSys has estimated that even in the dead of winter the UK will end up exporting power to mainland Europe, despite Britain usually relies on countries like France and Norway during these months.
At a conference yesterday, Fintan Slye, head of National Grid ESO, said the UK was likely to continue to help fill France’s nuclear generation shortfalls this year.
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He said: “The two operators of the system [Britain and France] talk continuously and the concept of mutual support in times of stress has always been there,”
It comes as UK households reel from the worst impacts of the global fossil fuel crisis, as analysts warn the price cap is set to reach around £3,200 a year by October.
Although the UK gets little of its gas directly from Russia, it has not been immune to market shocks, driving gas prices up in recent months.
Ofgem has warned that following the next price cap increase, millions of families will be pushed into fuel poverty.