The UK will significantly strengthen its electricity links with the rest of Europe via interconnectors over the next five years. This will provide the British power market with access to greater supplies and improved flexibility in meeting peak demand.
Tight surplus power margins triggered sharp spikes in Day-ahead power prices last winter. The issue is expected to remain a problem in 2017/18. The incentive for investment in increased interconnection for the UK is clear.
Will electricity links be affected by Brexit?
So far there has been no real impact on these developments following the UK’s vote to leave the European Union in June 2016. The Government wants to see all the current planned projects through to operation, the majority of which will not be completed until after the UK has left the EU in 2019.
Business Secretary Greg Clark has confirmed the UK will seek to remain in the EU’s internal energy market as Brexit negotiations take place over the next 18 months. Mr Clark told fellow MPs “the ambitions are to go higher” and used the new £1.1bn Aquind Interconnector with France, being built without public subsidy, as a sign that Brexit has not damaged investor confidence.
Currently, the UK operates just four interconnector links. Two are with mainland Europe via France and the Netherlands, and two are with Ireland. The total capacity across the projects is 4GW. A further 3.4GW of interconnector capacity is already under construction across three new projects.
Two new links are being developed with northern France, as well as a new cable with Belgium, all scheduled for completion by 2019. This could potentially almost double the UK’s interconnector capability within three years.
A further three additional interconnectors with France are in the pipeline. A second 1GW IFA2 link to Hampshire and a new 1.4GW FAB cable to Devon are currently awaiting planning approval.
Meanwhile, the 2GW Aquind Interconnector, planned for Portsmouth, received approval from energy regulator Ofgem in September 2016 and is hoping to be online by 2021.
A 1.4GW UK-Germany Interconnector, the first power link between the two countries, is also being planned at Isle of Grain. However, this concept is at a very early planning stage and it is unclear which points the cable will connect.
The UK also has early plans to tap into the Scandinavian energy market, hoping to take advantage of high levels of installed renewable capacity as well as hydropower reserves in the region. Two interconnector links are in planning with Norway. These will run to Peterhead in Northeast Scotland and Blyth in northern England – both with a capacity of 1.4GW.
A further 1.4GW Viking Link is in planning that will link the UK with Denmark. An ambitious 1000km IceLink interconnector is also in planning and will connect Scotland with Iceland. However, the €3.5bn project is only at the concept stage. It is expected to be at least ten years until this link could be operational.