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Regulator plays down role of exports in power price surge

Published on 02/11/2016
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 The Energy Regulator has rejected a claim that exports of electricity to Great Britain have been a major cause in driving up the wholesale cost of power here.

In a note to enirgy.info detailing the background to the recent rise in prices, the Regulator says sales to GB have had only a marginal impact. Their analysis showed that exports were “responsible for setting prices in less than 1% of the trading periods.”

High bidding into the Single Electricity Market (SEM) by AES, the US owners of Ballylumford, was also played down as a factor in the surge in prices which has seen a jump in wholesale costs from around £30 a MWh on average across a 24 hour period to £50 and even £60 a MWh. 

The Regulator said: “While the costs they are bidding are high they are priced out of the SEM bidding merit order and other generators are used instead. The resulting impact on SEM prices is that the next most expensive unit is more likely to be scheduled than the AES units, which may result in an increase in prices that is much smaller than the increase applied by AES.” However the energy body said it would continue to monitor the market and investigate as necessary.

Instead the Regulator, which protects the interests of consumers, stressed the importance of other influences in pushing up prices. It identified a number of contributory causes. Among them: calm weather in October which kept wind turbines idle, several large power plants including Coolkeeragh not being available to generate and a fifty per cent increase in gas costs between the beginning of September and the end of October. 

The Regulator pointed out that some factors would help dampen down prices. Availability of generators for example had improved with Coolkeeragh now being back on the system. However the unpredictability of “other big ticket items” such as demand and the weather made it difficult, it said, to provide any certainty on the future direction of prices.

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