Ofgem and CRE halt public consultation for AQUIND

Ofgem and its French counterpart the Commission de Régulation de l’Energie (CRE) have published a decision to discontinue public consultation for the AQUIND interconnector.

The AQUIND Interconnector is a proposed 2GW subsea and underground high voltage direct current power transmission project between France and the UK.

The Trade and Cooperation agreements (TCA) agreed on December 24, 2020 dedicates specific attention to the cooperation between the UK and the EU on efforts to combat climate change. As part of this cooperation, the TCA established a new regulatory framework for energy infrastructure linking the member states of the European Union and the United Kingdom, including an exemption regime similar to that in Regulation 2019/943 under which AQUIND submitted the ongoing Exemption Request.

As the UK is no longer a Member State and the transition period has ended, it can no longer access that process and the Ofgem and CRE no longer have the necessary legal powers to assess, and decide upon, the ‘Exemption Request’.

Consequently, the Ofgem and CRE have decided to discontinue the ongoing consultation and assessment process.

Ofgem and CRE will continue to cooperate closely in regards to the functioning and the development of interconnections between the UK and France and the implementation of the arrangements envisaged in the TCA.

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Spokesperson for AQUIND said:

“We are confident that recent decisions will not prevent us obtaining the necessary consents required to build and operate AQUIND Interconnector, and as a result AQUIND is continuing to engage with the appropriate stakeholders.”

To remind, the evaluation of the request for Environmental Authorisation submitted in October 2019 by AQUIND has been interrupted by the French authorities, without this decision calling into question the environmental quality of the project. AQUIND said that such a decision is not uncommon, and does not prevent it from securing the relevant French planning consents required to construct and operate AQUIND Interconnector.

Furthermore, AQUIND noted that this decision will not impact the ongoing Examination of the UK Development Consent Order (DCO) application, which is due to close on 8th March 2021, with a final decision made by the Secretary of State in September 2021.

Finally, if approved, AQUIND Interconnector will help meet the UK’s 2050 Net Zero target by reducing CO2 emissions by approximately 40 to 70 million tonnes over the first 25 years of operation, according to the pan-European Ten Year Network Development Plan 2020.