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Major French-UK interconnector to transport renewable power cross-border

Image credit: pa

A 149-mile-long interconnector between France and the UK that will allow the countries to share and redistribute low-carbon energy has begun initial testing before its addition to the National Grid.

Dubbed IFA2, the cable runs along the sea bed between Portsmouth, Hampshire in the UK and near Caen, Normandy in France, sharing surplus clean energy. 

National Grid said it expected the cable to deliver 1.2 per cent of Britain’s electricity needs and help avoid 1.2 million tonnes (Mt) of CO2 from entering the atmosphere by the end of its first year in operation.

Interconnectors can play a significant role in helping Britain to decarbonise its energy grid and help to minimise the need for the connected countries to store renewable energy in favour of sending surplus to their neighbour.

National Grid is looking to build three further interconnectors and is currently under discussion with Dutch transmission system operator TenneT to construct a four gigawatt line that will help it share offshore wind energy with the UK.

The 1,000MW high-voltage IFA 2 is National Grid’s second link to France and is the result of a shared £700m investment, with partners RTE.

Jon Butterworth, CEO of National Grid Ventures, said: “While the world is focused on the pandemic and managing the knock-on effects on our lives, we know that progress towards net zero can’t afford to falter and Britain needs to keep up the momentum in reducing harmful carbon emissions.

“The launch of the IFA2 interconnector, linking France and Britain’s power grids, is an important step in accelerating our progress to a cleaner, greener future.”

Kwasi Kwarteng, Minister for Business, Energy and Clean Growth, said: “The opening of this IFA2 interconnector will provide enough clean electricity to power one million British homes so I am delighted to see this joint venture being launched.

“Recent government commitments to the development of our offshore wind infrastructure show how the UK is a world leader in low-carbon energy generation and the IFA2 will allow us to share those benefits with our friends and neighbours in France.”

Alongside the IFA2 announcement, National Grid has also warned that electricity supply margins are likely to be tight in the country over the next few days but said it was confident that it could maintain adequate supply.

“Unusually low wind output coinciding with a number of generator outages means the cushion of spare capacity we operate the system with has been reduced,” National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO) said on Twitter.

The grid has a number of tools to help balance supply and demand and paid power producers such as nuclear generator EDF to reduce output over the summer when demand was weak.

“Margins are adequate for (Thursday) and we’re monitoring how the situation develops,” National Grid ESO said.

Gas power plants were supplying around 55 per cent of the country’s electricity on Thursday morning, with nuclear at 16 per cent and wind at 15 per cent, National Grid data showed.

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