Illustration; Source: National Grid

Harnessing North Sea power for net zero future with provisional green light for two UK subsea cable links to Europe

Britain’s energy regulator Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem) has recommended for approval plans for two high-voltage subsea cable links to Europe, which have the potential to power millions of homes, making use of the green power in the North Sea and boosting import and export capacity for clean energy.

Illustration; Source: National Grid

Ofgem has launched two separate consultations on its position to fund the Tarchon Energy interconnector which will enable a direct power link between Germany and Great Britain through a 1.4 GW 610 km cable to provide 1.4 GW of electricity capacity, and the LionLink, which is said to be a first-of-its-kind offshore hybrid asset (OHA) electricity link that will link the British and Dutch power grids, connecting the country’s grid directly to Dutch wind farms in the North Sea and providing 1.8 GW of electricity capacity. 

This comes after the UK regulator gave an electricity interconnector license in July 2023 for the LionLink multi-purpose interconnector to connect the UK with the Netherlands. Ofgem believes that these projects, which are being considered, are needed for the UK’s move toward a net zero energy system, which is more reliant on intermittent sources of generation such as wind and solar power. 

Related Article

As one-gigawatt hour (GWh) of electricity is enough to power one million homes for one hour, interconnection with European grids offers the possibility of assisting in cutting down on costs and waste by providing routes to sell excess clean power to the continent.

Rebecca Barnett, Ofgem Director of Major Projects, commented:“Interconnectors can make energy supply cleaner, cheaper and more secure. It’s a win-win and helps further harness the vast potential of the North Sea. We can sell our excess clean power to Europe, when we generate more than we need, or access power to meet electricity demand in Britain, during times when energy supply here is more limited. 

“We’ve assessed all the proposed projects on their individual merits against our published criteria and recommended regulatory support for the ones which we believe will deliver for consumers in terms of energy security and the economy.”   

Currently, Great Britain has 11.7 GW of interconnection capacity already in operation or under construction. Ofgem highlights that LionLink and Tarchon could add a further 3.2 GW capacity. The regulator is also consulting on its current view not to approve another proposed OHA asset, and a further six proposed interconnectors, which have not thus far provided sufficient assurance that they meet the requirements for approval.  

“We have a robust, detailed and transparent process for approving interconnectors and OHAs. However, we’ve not made any final decisions. Those projects not currently recommended for regulatory support can make their case in this consultation, their submissions will be considered along with any other feedback given,” added Barnett.

These consultations are slated to close on Tuesday, April 30, 2024, thus, Ofgem will aim to finalize its decisions regarding the funding of the interconnector projects this summer. Last July, the UK regulator granted its final approval for SSEN Transmission’s plans to provide a subsea electricity transmission link to Orkney.