New analysis from the think tank Green Alliance shows how much the UK benefits from its trade in electricity with European countries. Amidst a faltering nuclear strategy and fears of a no deal Brexit, the report stresses the need to maintain and grow cross border electricity trade.
The Japanese company Hitachi has scrapped plans to build the £20 billion Wylfa nuclear plant in Wales. This, combined with other setbacks in the government’s nuclear strategy, raises fears that the UK will struggle to meet future energy demand and climate targets in the 2020s.
Green Alliance’s analysis shows that a mix of increased electricity interconnection with the EU and installing more renewable energy, would avoid this, while keeping bills low and ensuring energy security.
Britain is one of the least interconnected countries in Europe and has the most to gain from improving its connections.
Electricity interconnection with neighbouring countries allows access to their renewable capacity and also provides a market for the UK’s renewable energy, at times of surplus.
This helps to reduce emissions more rapidly in the short term without the need to build more capacity. This strategy also keeps energy bills down and provides instant back up when needed at peak times.
In 2017, energy trading across borders brought a combined value of £700 million to the UK markets. Loss of energy links with Europe – threatened by a ‘no deal’ Brexit, for example – would cost the UK £2.2 billion a year, at the current level of interconnection.
Past Green Alliance analysis has shown that, in place of the proposed nuclear capacity, large scale deployment of renewables, alongside just Hinkley point C’s nuclear capacity, would meet the climate targets laid out in the fifth carbon budget.
To make sure the UK doesn’t lose the benefits of energy interconnection, continued participation in the EU’s internal energy market should be negotiated as part of the future agreement with the EU.
Chaitanya Kumar, senior policy adviser at Green Alliance, said:
“Amidst the Brexit noise, the UK’s nuclear energy plans are crumbling. Instead of doubling down on subsidised, expensive nuclear, the government should now be focusing on building cheaper alternatives in more renewables and electricity interconnection with Europe. The UK’s climate ambitions are not under any immediate threat from the failed nuclear plans, but that can only be guaranteed if the existing alternatives are scaled up.”
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 Better connected: how the UK can make the most of low cost, low carbon energy from Europe,
Green Alliance, 2018
 Digest of UK energy statistics (DUKES), Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, 2018
 Closing the clean power gap
, Green Alliance, 2017