A £600-million cable connecting the UK and Belgium national grids is about to be switched on, becoming the first of a new generation of interconnectors that will deepen the UK’s ties to continental Europe.
It is due to enable up to 1 gigawatt of electricity to flow between countries, enough to power around a million homes.
The 130km Nemo interconnector is in the final stages of testing and from early next year is expected to transmit power along the seabed between Richborough in Kent and Herdersbrug on the Belgian coast. It is the first link under the channel since 2011 and the first between the UK and Belgium.
More than 1,400 engineers and specialists have worked on Nemo since construction began in 2015 with the transmission cable built by Siemens Energy Management.
Nemo has been built largely to import power to England but will initially send electricity to Belgium.
Six of Belgium’s seven nuclear stations are currently offline because of repairs and safety checks, raising fears of blackouts, meaning Nemo could help fill any gaps next year.
The UK has four electricity marine links, with cables to France, the Netherlands, the Republic of Ireland and one to Northern Ireland, importing around 6 per cent of UK electricity. The French and Dutch interconnectors largely import electricity.
The UK’s National Grid said it was investing more than £2 billion in interconnectors to the rest of Europe.
It plans to build a 1.4 GW interconnector to Denmark, a second link with France and another to Norway.
interconnectors are considered vital for managing intermittent renewable sources.
“As we’re going through the energy transformation, we’ve got a lot of changes in generation. Interconnectors are increasingly important,” said John Pettigrew, the CEO of the National Grid, which built Nemo with Belgium’s grid manager, Elia.
“There are going to be periods going forward where there is surplus renewable energy, too much wind or too much solar. Therefore being able to take it from a local area and move it around Europe is good for carbon emissions,” Pettigrew told the media.
“Nemo Link will bring great benefits to consumers in the UK and Belgium by offering both countries access to a broader energy mix and providing opportunities to expand into other electricity markets.
“This new connection will also provide significant social benefits. By connecting the UK and Belgian electricity markets, we will ensure customers have access to different sources of generation and lower priced electricity. This will mean that customers pay less for their energy.
“Over the next five years, National Grid will be investing more than £2 billion in new interconnectors to Europe and our significant commitment is driven by the value that interconnectors like Nemo link can bring to customers at both ends of the cable.”
Nemo’s converter station in Herdersbrug, Belgium. Picture credit: Wikimedia