French ‘rubbing their hands’ as Britain forced to import £1.5bn of electricity

wind power

wind power

Britain imported a record amount of electricity from Europe last year as solar and wind farms struggled to generate sufficient energy in the wake of coal and nuclear power plant closures.

The UK forked out £3.5bn on electricity from France, Norway, Belgium and the Netherlands last year, accounting for 12pc of net supply, according to research from London Stock Exchange (LSEG) Power Research.

According to official data, France accounted for around £1.5bn of power sold to the UK in the year to November 2023 while Norway earned around £500m.

Electricity imports were brought to the UK via the growing network of interconnector cables designed to boost the collective resilience and energy security of neighbouring countries.

But closures of British power stations means the traffic is increasingly one-way with the UK instead becoming dependent on its neighbours.

Angus MacNeil, chairman of the Commons energy select committee, said he supported the creation of interconnector cables between Britain and its neighbours because they boosted energy security, but said flows should be balanced across the year rather than largely one way.

“The French will be rubbing their hands – it’s easy money for them,” he said.

“The ideal is for the flows to be neutral overall in terms of both the flows of power and of money.”

Britain’s capacity to generate electricity has been impacted by the closure of coal-fired power stations such as West Burton A in Nottinghamshire last March and nuclear stations such as Hinkley Point B in late 2022.

New wind and solar farms can compensate to some extent but they are intermittent, meaning spells of low wind or heavy cloud – a phenomenon known as dunkelflaute – can reduce output.

Met Office records have shown that wind speeds last year were below the 20-year average for 11 of the 12 months to December.

Nathalie Gerl, an analyst at LSEG Power Research, said: “The opportunity to import cheaper electricity from abroad reduces the occurrence of price spikes and could mean the overall wholesale price level is lower than it would be without the interconnection.”

A National Grid spokesman said: “As the UK continues to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels and increase the development of cleaner, more affordable, and secure renewable energy, National Grid is delivering the biggest overhaul of the electricity grid in generations – The Great Grid Upgrade – to connect that cleaner, more affordable energy to communities in every part of England and Wales, helping us all reach net zero faster.

“Alongside this, interconnectors will provide the UK with an opportunity to share any abundance of new clean electricity from where it is generated to where it is needed.”

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