03 July 2018

Electricity interconnectors

Despite everything you read, it may surprise you to know that Great Britain is becoming increasingly connected to Europe – or should that be interconnected?  

Electricity interconnectors are the physical cables which allow the transfer of electricity across borders. There are already 4,000 MW of operational interconnectors linking Britain to France, the Netherlands, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and a pipeline of approximately 12,000MW of projects proposed or under construction by 2025.

Why the drive for new interconnectors?

Both UK and EU legislation support the development of interconnectors with EU having non-binding targets of reaching 15% of installed production capacity by 2030. Interconnectors are projects of common interest, intended to help the UK and the EU to deliver affordable, secure and sustainable energy. They also support meeting our energy and climate targets, and deliver the long-term decarbonisation of the economy in accordance with the Paris Agreement. Such projects benefit from an accelerated planning and permitting process, streamlined environmental assessments and are entitled to certain grant and other funding arrangements.

Our role in the development of interconnectors

In the last 12 months, The Crown Estate has licenced three new projects in English Territorial waters; these were Nemo in 2017, a 1,000MW interconnector to Belgium and in 2018, IFA2 a further 1000MW link to France and North Sea Link (NSL) a 1400MW to Norway.

NSL is a $2bn project to construct 720km subsea cables connecting Blyth in the North East of England to Kvilldall in Norway. The project is a joint venture between National Grid and Statnett, the Norwegian power grid developer and operator. It comprises twin subsea cables which will be laid at a water depth of approximately 600m and buried under the seabed at depths of one to three metres. The link will be capable of operating two-way so as to import electricity to and from Norway. With construction having commenced in Norway in 2015, it is expected to be operational in 2021. At the UK end, offshore and on-shore installation of the cable commenced on 7th May 2018 utilising the specialised Giulio Verne vessel.

What next?

We remain in discussion with a number of parties for new interconnector agreements and we look forward to announcing new agreements in the near future. Due to their inherent linear nature, and requirement to connect to the high-voltage grid, interconnectors pose challenging spatial questions. We welcome early engagement with parties to discuss potential routing options.

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