UK's 2 GW subsea electricity superhighway first to progress through Ofgem's fast-track process

2 GW subsea electricity superhighway first to progress through Ofgem’s fast-track process

UK energy market regulator Ofgem has selected a 2 GW high-voltage direct current (HVDC) subsea cable as the first project to proceed under the new fast-track process and to receive a provisional £2 billion funding package.

Credits: Eastern Green Link 1

Eastern Green Link 1 (EGL1) is being developed by National Grid Electricity Transmission (NGET) and SP Transmission, part of SP Energy Networks, between the Torness area in East Lothian, Scotland, and Hawthorn Pit in County Durham, England. 

The vast majority of the 196-kilometer cable will be under the North Sea, with the remaining 20 kilometers of cables underground linking the cable to substations and converter stations.

It is the first of 26 critical energy projects, worth an estimated £20 billion to be fast tracked under the new Accelerated Strategic Transmission Investment (ASTI) framework, designed to speed up the delivery of strategic energy projects to feed in more electricity generated by offshore wind to British consumers.

ASTI accelerates the project funding process by up to two years, targeting projects critical to meeting the UK Government’s target of 50 GW of offshore wind capacity by 2030, replacing the previous piecemeal, project-by-project approval framework. 

The proposed budget is now subject to a consultation published on March 20. The consultation is due to close on Wednesday, April 17, after which the UK energy market regulator will publish a decision on next steps.

Ofgem said it had scrutinized the costs proposed by developers and identified £43 million that could be cut from indirect costs, thereby reducing costs for consumers without impacting project delivery or quality. The project is also subject to securing future planning permission in a process overseen by the Planning Inspectorate. 

“To meet future energy demand and Government net zero targets we need to accelerate the pace at which we build the high voltage energy network, which transport homegrown electricity to where it’s needed. Eastern Link 1 is the first project to reach this stage under our new fast track Accelerated Strategic Transmission (ASTI) process designed to unlock investment, speed up major power projects and boost Britain’s energy security,” said Rebecca Barnett, Ofgem Director of Major Projects.

“We’ve streamlined the approval process without neglecting our due diligence. We’ve carried out rigorous checks to ensure consumers are shielded from unnecessary costs and made cost adjustments, where we don’t see maximum efficiency and consumer benefit.” 

According to Ofgem, delivery of projects such as EGL1 will not only provide millions of consumers with access to homegrown wind energy, by boosting grid capacity it will further benefit consumers by cutting compensation paid to generators currently asked to turn off production, during times of high wind, due to lack of grid capacity.

At the end of 2023, Italian cabling giant Prysmian won a €850 million contract for EGL1, while the consortium of GE Vernova’s Grid Solutions business and MYTILINEOS Energy & Metals secured a contract worth around €1.2 billion to deliver the HVDC converter stations for the project.