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Brexit leaves interconnectors in uncertain waters

3052968 britned cable

Three projects to connect UK and French power networks have been left in limbo as French energy regulator CRE awaits the outcome of the Brexit process.

Projects to build new interconnectors to European countries such as Norway and Denmark are well underway, France’s CRE is holding back on approving three new links to France because of concerns about Brexit.  

The GridLink, Fab Link and Aquind interconnector projects are all awaiting rulings from the CRE. The regulator has stated on its website, that it cannot anticipate how interconnectors will be regulated post-Brexit or how they will impact on the European energy market. 

“The potential consequences of Brexit on the energy markets and, in particular, on the rules for access and use of interconnectors between the Continent and the United Kingdom cannot be anticipated to this day,” the regulator stated.  

“The regulatory and economic framework in which new interconnector projects will be developed is therefore highly uncertain, thus questioning the possibility to analyse with sufficient precision the benefits for the community of such projects.” 

The projects would allow increased energy trading with France and the rest of Europe, something which is becoming increasingly vital as energy generation moves towards greater reliance on renewable energy sources.  

The UK currently shares just one interconnector with France, which was commissioned in 1986, National Gird is currently building a second link to France, called IFA 2, that is on schedule to be in operation by Q4 next year..  

An Ofgem spokesperson said the regulator was working with its French counterpart to get the three projects through to the next stage, and that other projects were underway. 

“There are plans, at various stages of maturity, to develop new electricity interconnectors to France, Ireland, Denmark, Norway and Germany,” the spokesperson said. “Our approval relates to the GB share of new projects and developers will need to work with governments and regulators in connecting countries to ensure that final approval is granted in those countries. 

“The French regulator, CRE, currently considers that it is not in a position to decide whether any new interconnector project between France and the United Kingdom is beneficial to the European community. We continue to work with CRE and with all three projects to understand the developers’ planned next steps.”   

The proposed GridLink project would run 160km of high voltage direct current cables between Dunkirk in France and Kingsnorth in the UK with a capacity of 1.4GW. It would be among the shortest interconnectors between the UK and Europe.  

The Fablink project is for 220km of HVDC cables between electrical substations at Menuel, on the Cotentin peninsula in France, and Exeter in the UK to transfer 1.4GW of energy.  

Meanwhile the Aquind project, proposes HVDC cables between the South Coast of England and Normandy in France to carry 2GW of power. 

Route of proposed new French interconnector projects

Both GridLink and Fablink have stated on their websites that they want to begin construction in 2020, and deliver their projects between 2022 and 2023.  

Ofgem has approved nine new interconnector projects, including the three new connections to France. If all nine are delivered, they will treble the UK’s connected capacity to Europe from 5GW to 15GW. The most recent project came online last month – with the 130km, 1GW Nemo Link interconnector between the UK and Belgium beginning commercial operation.   

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