Tuesday 28 January 2020 2:13 pm

Ofgem launches probe into troubled Western Link cable

Ofgem has launched an investigation into National Grid and Scottish Power’s delivery of a high voltage subsea cable which carries energy from Scottish windfarms to north Wales.

The £1.3bn Western Link, as the cable is known, has endured a deeply troubled gestation involving multiple delays and outages.

Originally designated to come online in 2015, the project was only passed to the operator in December 2017.

At this stage it was not fully operational, and suffered multiple outages, but eventually the link began operating to full capacity in December last year.

Since being brought online the cable has failed six times in total, with the longest outage lasting two months. It is currently offline, having failed again on 10 January.

Ofgem said that the investigation would look into the cost of these unplanned outages as well as its late delivery.

The watchdog can fine each company up to 10 per cent of its annual turnover if it finds they are in breach of the relevant act.

The probe will also look into so-called “constraint payments” paid to energy firms in compensation for not producing energy due to faults with the cable.

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The Telegraph reported that earlier in January wind farms were paid up to £3 million per day to switch off their turbines and not produce electricity.

These payouts, which were between 25 and 80 per cent more than the wind farms would have earned if they had been producing power, are ultimately added to consumer bills.

In December an analysis by the Renewable Energy Foundation, a charity that monitors energy use, revealed that the operators of 86 wind farms in Britain were handed a record £136m in so-called “constraint payments” last year.

In a joint statement, National Grid and Scottish Power, which is owned by Spanish energy giant Iberdrola, said:

“National Grid Electricity Transmission and Scottish Power Transmission note Ofgem’s investigation into the Western Link, the high voltage electricity cable between Scotland and England. We will continue to work with Ofgem in an open and transparent manner and will fully co-operate with this investigation.

“We are confident that our investment in the link has delivered benefits for consumers since entering service in 2017, and will continue to deliver benefits. We are committed to providing a reliable link that will transport cleaner greener energy to our homes and businesses across Great Britain.

“We are working hard to repair the current cable fault and are certain we will overcome these difficulties and establish a link that will continue to benefit consumers for many years to come.”