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IFA1 fire to see 1GW offline until March 2022

IFA1 is to operate at half capacity as of next week due to a fire at its converter station. Image: Getty

IFA1 is to operate at half capacity as of next week due to a fire at its converter station. Image: Getty

National Grid has confirmed that 1GW of interconnector capacity will be offline until 27 March 2022, turning to the North Sea Link to help plug the gap.

While IFA1 has a total capacity of 2GW, 1GW of this was already offline as part of a planned outage when a fire began to blaze at a converter station in Sellindge in the early hours of the morning on Wednesday 15 September.

This fire was extinguished by 9:05am on Thursday 16 September, however the 1GW outage - which was expected to end this weekend - has now been extended to 25 September, while the remaining 1GW is to be offline for six months.

In an update released yesterday (16 September) National Grid said it was on-site assessing the damage and investigating the cause of the fire, and is currently focused on getting IFA1 safely returned to service as soon as possible.

It detailed how it was in the process of commissioning the new North Sea Link interconnector with Norway to provide additional capacity next month ahead of the winter period.

Indeed, energy secretary Kwasi Kwarteng announced yesterday on social media site Twitter that the UK has signed a “new treaty with Norway to increase access to low-cost renewable electricity”.

This agreement includes making sure that the maximum level of capacity of North Sea Link - which is expected to be completed in October - is made available and that any capacity of North Sea Link that has been allocated is only curtailed in emergency situations and any such curtailment takes place in a non-discriminatory manner.

Additionally, the document states that capacity allocation and congestion management on the North Sea Link must be market based, transparent and non-discriminatory and must be coordinated between the relevant Norwegian transmission system operators and United Kingdom transmission system operators.

National Grid also said it is 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.

Concerns over the winter period have been rising, with the UK currently experiencing a period of exceptionally high power prices as a result of a combination of continued low nuclear availability, low wind and the pre-fire reduced capacity of IFA1.

National Grid ESO itself has warned of tight margins to come in the winter period due to supply uncertainty in an early view of its winter outlook, released in July, and earlier this week, Phil Hewitt, director of power market analyst firm EnAppSys, said that with these tight winter margins, the fire at IFA1 “puts the GB market in a risky position for the winter".

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