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Javier Blas

How London Paid a Record Price to Dodge a Blackout

The UK heat wave also saw an unhappy benchmark in the energy crisis.

Rage, rage against the pricing of the light.

Rage, rage against the pricing of the light.

Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

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Last week, unbeknown to many outside the power industry, parts of London came remarkably close to a blackout — even as it was recovering from the hottest day in British history. On July 20, surging electricity demand collided with a bottleneck in the grid, leaving the eastern part of the British capital briefly short of power. Only by paying a record high £9,724.54 (about $11,685) per megawatt hour — more than 5,000% higher than the typical price — did the UK avoid homes and businesses going dark. That was the nosebleed cost to persuade Belgium to crank up aging electricity plants to send energy across the English Channel.