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UK power prices hit record high amid cold snap and lack of wind power

UK power prices have hit record levels as an icy cold snap and a fall in supplies of electricity generated by wind power have combined to push up wholesale costs.

The day-ahead price for power for delivery on Monday reached a record £675 a megawatt-hour on the Epex Spot SE exchange. The price for power at 5-6pm, typically around the time of peak power demand each day, passed an all-time high of £2,586 a megawatt-hour.

Prices are surging as the weather forces Britons to increase their heating use, pushing up demand for energy, despite high bills.

Snow and ice have caused disruption as the cold weather looks set to continue into this week, with snow forecast for parts of east and south-east England, as well as Scotland.

The cold snap, which is expected to last for at least a week, comes as wind speeds reduced sharply, hitting power suppliers.

Live data from the National Grid’s Electricity System Operator showed that wind power was providing just 3% of Great Britain’s electricity generation on Sunday. Gas-fired power stations provided 59%, while nuclear power and electricity imports both accounted for about 15%.

The increase in power prices come amid jitters over energy supplies this winter. National Grid warned in October that a combination of factors such as a cold spell and a shortage of gas in Europe related to the war in Ukraine could lead to power cuts in the UK.

The anticipated surge in power demand on Monday evening will coincide with a planned use of the National Grid’s demand flexibility service between 5pm and 7pm. The scheme pays businesses and households to cut their consumption at peak times to reduce the strain on the grid.

The scheme has been used several times as part of a series of tests but is yet to be used as a result of electricity supply shortages. National Grid flirted with using it under these circumstances last month but did not do so.

Dr Agostinho Moreira de Sousa, a consultant in public health medicine at UK Health Security Agency, encouraged those with health conditions to heat their homes to a comfortable temperature. “In rooms you mostly use such as the living room or bedroom, try to heat them to at least 18C if you can. Keep your bedroom windows closed at night. Wearing several layers of clothing will keep you warmer than one thicker layer,” he said.

German day-ahead power prices rose 33% to €434 (£373) a megawatt-hour, the highest since 13 September, while the French contract rose 40% to €465 a megawatt-hour, Bloomberg reported.

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