The world’s longest underwater electric wire connecting Norway to the United Kingdom was put into service on Friday, an additional safety line to supply Britain with energy in the midst of rising gas prices and fuel shortages.
The operation of the underwater electric line, which extends for about 720 kilometers, will start operating with a maximum capacity of 700 megawatts, to be gradually increased to 1,400 megawatts within three months.
“The North Sea Link line, at full capacity, will be able to power 1.4 million homes,” said National Grid, which operates Britain’s electricity grid and owns half of the shares in the new power line along with Norway’s Stattnet.
The UK will be able to supply Norway with wind power when it produces a surplus, and the Scandinavian country will be able to send its surplus hydropower to Britain to help meet demand and reduce supply prices on both sides.
The United Kingdom, which from late October hosts the COP26 Climate Conference, aims to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 and this new electrical wire contributes to the supply of energy without emitting carbon dioxide.
Britain already has electric lines linking it to France, Belgium and the Netherlands, and intends to establish other lines with the countries of the continent, especially a new underwater wire linking it to Denmark called Viking Link, and it extends over 465 kilometers, including 621 under water. Its construction is expected to be completed at the end of 2023.
In mid-September, a fire that affected a huge electric line with France reduced the country’s ability to import electricity and contributed to the rise in gas prices, which hit new historical records on Thursday.
– Unexpected consequences –
The sharp rise in gas prices has bankrupted groups, as operating companies are stuck between standard gas prices and the ceiling imposed on the electricity bills they send to families.
Nearly two million British homes are deprived of an energy resource with the onset of winter, even though the authority overseeing the sector promises that everyone will have a new supplier.
Britain is particularly affected by the natural gas crisis that Europe is facing because it relies on this energy to produce electricity more than other countries such as France, where nuclear energy dominates the electricity sector.
The rise in gas prices has also caused the shutdown of the country’s largest supplier of carbon dioxide, which may lead to a weakening of food security because this gas is very essential in the cold chain and slaughter.
The government provided assistance to this company, but it has so far refused to help energy companies.
The two largest groups, E.on and Centrica, are expected to emerge as winners, as will groups more focused on renewables such as SSE and Octopus Energy.
These two suppliers “have been able to find where the wind is blowing and have carved out a prominent place in the renewable energy market,” analyst Susanna Streeter of financial firm Hargreaves Lansdown told AFP.
In particular, Octopus Energy has welcomed hundreds of thousands of clients who have moved on from other bankrupt operators and has attracted nearly £500m of new capital from a fund invested by ex-US Vice President Al Gore.
“We haven’t seen major mergers and acquisitions yet” but this consolidation of the UK market “is prompting questions about the operator pricing model,” says analyst Sylvain Kone-Dauphin at IHS Markit.
He believes that a multi-year settlement of electricity bills should probably be considered, at a time when renewables and natural gas are threatening greater fluctuations in electricity prices.
For consumers, the rise in gas prices is supposed to lead to a rise in electricity bills, at a time when the application of raising the billing ceiling begins on Friday, which will put additional pressure on the most vulnerable families.
This crisis is added to the fuel shortage at the stations, which is the most serious in more than ten years, due to the decrease in the number of truck drivers distributing fuel.
It remains to be seen whether the current energy crisis will help or slow the country’s ecological transition. And 14 major companies in Britain called recently to accelerate the abandonment of fossil fuels in the production of electricity.
The British Prime Minister considers that gas is still, until now, essential to maintaining the integrity and stability of the electricity system.