Energy and Utility Management Consultants

New European Interconnector Online

April 2011


The end of March saw the BritNed power cable come on-line for the first time, allowing the UK access to some 1 GW of energy from the European markets. With the capacity of a nuclear power station the interconnector runs under the sea from the Isle of Grain in Kent to Maasvlakte near Rotterdam in the Netherlands. The additional capacity provided by the cable will allow the National Grid to better balance the use of renewable energy and traditional energy quickly and easily; when wind drops, for instance, and renewable output is not available it is now easier to import. Conversely, where there is a surplus of wind power, it can now be easily exported.

Chris Hune, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, sums it up nicely by stating that "...consumers win as a single European market puts pressure on prices". This is evidenced by prices easing somewhat as we start to see a (hopefully continued) fall in prices of electricity. Natural gas and Brent crude oil prices are also tracking the electricity market with falls across all commodities this week.

As well as having an instant impact, the cable is unusual in that it transmits power as High Voltage DC (HVDC), which can send lossless electricity over much greater distances than existing alternating current lines (which start losing power at around 80km). A further 10GW of HVDC lines are due to be in place by 2020 linking the UK to Belgium, France & Norway.  At 260km, the BritNed cable can pioneer much greater things such as allowing bigger offshore wind farms further into the North Sea. The next big step could be the possibility of linking the UK to Iceland to access the massive amounts of geothermal energy there. But that's currently somewhat of a 'pipedream'.

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