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Fire-damaged IFA1 to not return to full capacity until Oct 2023 due to 'extensive work' required

National Grid's IFA2 interconnector, which was unaffected by last month's fire. Image: National Grid

National Grid's IFA2 interconnector, which was unaffected by last month's fire. Image: National Grid

National Grid has pushed back its expectation of when the IFA1 interconnector with France will be operating at its full 2GW capacity again.

Following a fire at a convertor station in Sellindge last month, 1GW of the interconnector went offline, with this expected to come back online in March 2022. However, following detailed assessment, National Grid has concluded it needs to carry out “extensive work” to safely return the interconnector to service.

It is therefore to bring 500MW back to service from October 2022 through to May 2023, which will result in 1,500MW of available capacity for next winter. National Grid will then undertake further work in order to bring the full 2GW back by October 2023, a year and a half after its initial estimates.

“We are completely focused on getting IFA safely returned to service as soon as possible and ensuring we are able to support security of supply,” National Grid said in a statement.

The other 1GW of the 2GW interconnector was already offline at the time of the fire as part of a planned outage. National Grid has now said it has reduced the outage time so this 1GW will come back online on 20 October, ahead of the 23 October date previously published.

The outage of IFA1 comes as Britain faces a winter period of tight margins and high prices in the Balancing Mechanism, with National Grid ESO’s sensitivity analysis indicating that the tightest margins could occur in the first two weeks of December.

The ESO's Winter Outlook 2021 - released earlier this month - paints a similar picture to last year, with roughly the same number of Electricity Market Notices (EMNs) - a tool used to highlight when margins are looking tight ahead of real-time - expected to be issued.

At the time of the fire at IFA1, National Grid said it was in discussions with National Grid ESO and its European partners to ensure it optimises upcoming planned pre-winter outages of other interconnectors to support UK security of supply, with the IFA2, BritNed and Nemo Link interconnectors currently operating at full capacity.

Additionally, it was commissioning the new North Sea Link interconnector with Norway to provide additional capacity next month ahead of the winter period.

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