National grid has published its yearly Winter Outlook report for the 2018/19 season. The report forecasts an electricity margin of 7.1GW, which is 0.9GW more than last year.
Transmission system demand is predicted to peak at 48.2GW, 2.5GW less than last winter, during the week commencing 10 December 2018. This includes the sum of national demand (48.85GW), alongside the demand from power stations (600MW) and the base case interconnector export value (750MW).
The Winter Outlook expects this season to operate differently to last year. Over the last two winters, gas was the cheaper fuel type for electricity generation. However, as global gas prices have risen, it’s more likely that coal will replace gas generation to some degree over the season.
In 2014, the interconnectors were not eligible to participate in the Capacity Market’s (CM) T-4 auction. As a result, they hold no CM obligations for winter 2018/19, including interconnector capacity, as some contracts were secured by interconnectors in the Early Auction.
The Winter Outlook expects an average import flow of 2,130MW, out of a total 3,000MW (2,000MW from the French IFA interconnector and 1,000MW from the Netherlands BritNed interconnector), and an export flow to Ireland of 750MW.
National Grid anticipates that forward prices in Continental European markets will be lower than in Britain. As a result, we will likely see a net flow of power from the Continent to the UK during peak power demand periods. However, outages within the Belgium nuclear fleet, which have extended to November and beyond, could result in increases to Continental prices, causing uncertainty on interconnector flow direction.
Nemo Link, a new interconnector, is under construction and may come into commercial service at the end of January 2019. Once commissioned, it will provide a 1GW capability between Belgium and the UK.
The gas demand forecast for winter 2018/19 is 46.6 billion cubic meters (bcm), lower than the winter 2017/18 outturn. Peak demand for the coldest weather conditions (or a 1-in-20 winter, meaning exceptional demand on a winter day which statistically occurs once every 20 years) is forecast at 483mcm/day, with a margin of available supply of 92 million cubic meters (mcm).
The report estimates that for an average cold day this winter, the demand forecast is expected to be 407mcm/day. The non-storage supply forecast is 360mcm/day, to which 92mcm of storage can be added, providing National Grid a cold day supply forecast in excess of the forecast demand.
Average gas exports through the IUK to Continental Europe are expected to be lower than winter 2017/18 due to the expiry of long-term contracts. As a result, National Grid predicts that deliveries through from the Balgzand Bacton Line (BBL) may be price-sensitive through the season.
Following a decision by the Dutch government to cut Groningen production, output from the site will be reduced from 21bcm/year in winter 2017/18 to 12bcm/year by winter 2022/23. Production from Groningen this year will not be dictated by a cap, but instead will be weather dependent, producing no more than necessary to meet security of supply.
Liquefied natural gas (LNG)
During seven of the last eight months, supply of LNG to the network has been lower than in the same period in the previous year. Demand for LNG is comparatively high in Asian markets, especially in China where gas is expected to continue to grow, as it replaces coal in the Chinese heating sector. High demand, and the associated high prices have drawn LNG away from European markets.
The Winter Outlook does not expect LNG supply to the country to be high on many days this winter. However, if demand and prices rise substantially within the UK, LNG imports will increase, just as they did at the end of February 2018.
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