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Norway has unveiled plans that would enable it to completely cut off electricity exports in a bid to safeguard domestic supplies during a shortage. Such a move would be a significant blow to the UK’s energy security, as Britain has been importing substantial electricity supplies from Norway since opening up a cable in 2021. Britain is connected to Norway via a 450-mile interconnector that joins Blyth, Northumberland to Kvilldal power station through cables that run through the North Sea. This power station, which is Norway’s largest hydroelectric plant, is crucial to the National Grid’s ability to keep the lights on in the UK when domestic electricity generation is low.
However, on Friday, Norway’s Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere said that in the event of a crisis like one posed by a heatwave that pushes water reserves to record lows, Norway could block exports.
He said: “We want to ensure there is always enough water in our reservoirs. There should always be enough power in our sockets (at home) and we should have enough power for our industry.”
As part of the bill, Oslo announced measures that will make hydropower producers formally responsible for maintaining water reservoirs above a certain level.
Producers will also be required to report reservoir levels to authorities, with officials telling Reuters that Friday’s announcement formalised procedures that were put in place last year,
Last year, Norway warned that it could slash power exports if hydropower reservoir levels dropped below a certain level, adding to fears that the UK could face blackouts this winter.
The £1.4billion North Sea Link between the UK and Norway has a capacity of 1.4 gigawatts, which provides enough electricity to power around 1.4 million homes.
Meanwhile, the Surveillance authority of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), of which Norway is a member, expressed concern over the bill, saying that it would speak with the country’s government.
A spokesperson for the body told the Norwegian news agency NTB: “Any measures that may lead to restrictions on the power market in the European Economic Area are of concern.”
Norway’s government has faced pressure over the past year to lower household bills for its citizens, which have soared to record levels following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Oslo pushed back against criticism over the bill, comparing it to the EU’s efforts to prioritise filling gas storage last summer, in a bid to ensure sufficient winter supplies.
Mr Stoere said: “This is not a measure directed against any country, it’s a measure directed against securing, in the future, a stable system of provision of energy from the Norwegian hydro system.”
Hydropower accounts for around 90 percent of the electricity generated in Norway, which raised an alarm last August after production levels fell to their lowest “seen so far this year” in the southwest.,
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If Norway cuts electricity supplies this winter, it could threaten the UK’s energy security, with the National Grid warning that it could roll out “three hour planned powers” if it fails to secure enough electricity supplies.
Last week, the National Grid and energy companies rolled out its first live run of the new Demand Flexibility Service, which is aimed to reducing energy usage during peak hours of the day to balance the grid.
Under this scheme, households with smart meters were paid to lower their energy use for an hour or two, which helped prevent blackouts as poor weather lead to low wind production.
Meanwhile, on Thursday, France’s grid operator, RTE, asked the UK to be prepared to help by exporting power supplies on Thursday over concerns that strikes at power plants in France would lead to low production.
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