Electricity Interconnectors: the answer to clean, secure and affordable energy?
Being able to trade surplus electricity across boarders would go a long way in utilising renewable energy that’s produced in countries where generation exceeds consumption, however, the UK and EU’s under-developed power grid infrastructure doesn’t currently allow for this.
An area of common interest here is interconnectors, which allow the UK and EU to connect their power grids and deliver clean, secure and affordable energy across long distances, while reducing currently wasted excess energy. Successfully implementing interconnectors will have a major impact in the long-term decarbonisation of the economy.
What exactly is an interconnector?
In the case of electricity interconnectors, they are physical cables that allow the transference of electricity across borders.
There’s already 4 GW of operational interconnectors which link Britain to France, the Netherlands, Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland, contributing around 6% of the UK’s electricity generation mix.
In addition to this, there are a number of ongoing projects which will add approximately 12 GW of capacity by 2025 with a further capacity increase of 15% targeted for 2030. With the current shift away from fossil fuel electricity generation in the UK and EU, we expect to see more projects being announced in the future.
Below is a map of existing and proposed interconnectors between the UK and Europe, as well as one that is currently under construction.
Future European Interconnection
Nemo, a new 80-mile subsea power link, is a joint venture between the UK’s National Grid and their Belgian counterpart, Elia. It runs between Richborough in Kent and Herdersbrug in Belgium and is due to start operation in the first quarter of 2019. The £600m interconnector aims to deliver a more flexible energy system for consumers in both countries, enabling up to 1 GW of electricity flow capacity, enough power for approximately 1million homes.
The Grid received additional financial approval for the construction of the 1.4 GW Viking link, which will connect the UK with Denmark. The £1b project looks set to go ahead in 2023 and will add approximately 2% capacity to the grid. Britain also has plans to build another four new subsea cables with 4.8 GW capacity, adding to the existing 2 GW link currently between the UK and France, as well as a new connection to Norway.
This seems to be the trend going forward, with the British power grid stated intentions to invest over £2b into future projects. These interconnectors are the first of several matured proposals to expand the British power grids interconnectivity by 10.3 GW, driving Britain to a more renewable and flexible generation mix, embracing large scale change to meet climate change agreement objectives.
These interconnectors are being welcomed by political groups who believe that the projects will see continued cooperation on energy across borders with European partners. However, the UK government has warned operators of the risks associated with electrical power links with Europe and that in the event of a hard Brexit they will need to set up alternative trading arrangements.
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