U.K. Poised to Become Net Energy Exporter to Europe in Near Future

Although the UK currently imports around 7% of its electricity from Europe, the tables are going to be turned soon, partly due to the on-going establishment of new links to the continent. Aiming to quadruple offshore wind capacity this decade, the UK could have excess power to send through those transmission lines. Consequently, the UK could become a net energy exporter to Europe in five years.

Due to high electricity prices in Great Britain, energy from Europe is currently pouring into it, especially through the two links from France. But prices are expected to rise in continental Europe, especially in the biggest market – Germany – as coal, lignite and nuclear plants are being shut down, as per S&P Global Platts. This is expected to alter the economy and the flow of electricity.

The UK aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to “net zero” by 2050, and the export of low-CO2 electricity to countries such as France, Norway and Denmark is part of that plan. However, with energy demand set to double in that period, the UK is also beefing up its own supply, aiming for 40 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2030.

The UK market is expanding “structurally, while all of Western Europe is moving in another direction,” said Sabrina Kernbichler, European energy analyst at S&P Global Platts .

The new interconnection lines will increase Britain’s connections with Europe to 18 gigawatts, up from 8 gigawatts by 2030. There is a possibility “in the medium term” that the country will become a net exporter, according to Andreas Gandolfo, BloombergNEF analyst. But it may not last. Although the growth of wind power in the next decade will drive prices down in the UK, the increased electrification of energy use will drive them up later, Gandolfo said.

The new interconnectors planned are as follows:

  • ElecLink, 1 GW link to France scheduled to start operations in the summer of 2022: The ElecLink project aims to build, install and operate an electricity interconnector between the United Kingdom and France, by installing two direct current cables inside the Channel Tunnel. These two cables will enable the electricity produced, on either side of the Channel, to circulate between the two countries as needed. The new interconnector ElecLink is a subsidiary wholly- owned by Getlink.
  • North Sea Link, 1.4 GW link with Norway scheduled to start this year: Statnett and National Grid North Sea Link Limited are working together to construct the “longest subsea interconnector” – the North Sea Link (NSL) – in the world to link Nordic and British energy markets via high voltage subsea cables from Kvilldal, Norway, to Blyth, the UK. The project aims to provide opportunities for shared use of renewable energy, increase the security of electricity supplies for both countries.
  • Viking Link, 1.4 GW cable with Denmark as of 2023 or 2024: Viking Link project is a joint venture between National Grid Ventures, part of National Grid, and Energinet, a Danish electricity system owner and operator. The project will build one of the world’s longest subsea interconnectors – a 765-kilometre high-voltage cable – that will enable the transfer of clean energy to power the equivalent of 1.4 million UK homes. The project is expected to see £5.2 billion in consumer benefits over 25 years.
  • NeuConnect, 1.4 GW cable with Germany from 2023 or 24: NeuConnect is a privately-financed £1.4 billion interconnector that will create the first direct link between UK and German electricity networks, connecting two of Europe’s largest energy markets for the first time. Over 700 kilometres of subsea cables will allow 1.4GW of electricity to flow in either direction.

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