UK-Belgium Electricity Link Paves Way For Greater Renewables Integration

Contracts have been awarded and work started on the Nemo Link that will interconnect the UK and Belgium.
Published: Wed 08 Jul 2015

Electricity interconnections between nations in Europe is a key part of EU strategy to integrate growing renewable generation and to achieve an integrated market, with a minimum 10% of generation capacity interconnection target by 2020. [Engerati-European Energy Union Proposed To Transform Energy System]

With a current 5% interconnection level the UK is ramping up its interconnections to continental Europe via a ‘cap and floor’ approach that was developed to encourage their development. [Engerati-UK Proposes Three New Continental Interconnectors] The first of the projects to be awarded under this scheme, Nemo Link, is now starting to take shape, with the awarding of €500 million in contracts and the first works are getting under way.

Nemo Link connects UK and Belgium

The Nemo Link is a 1,000MW underground and subsea link – sufficient to power half a million homes – that will run 140km between the former Richborough power station site in Kent in the UK to a site in the Herdersbrug industry zone near Zeebrugge in Belgium. The project is a joint venture between National Grid in the UK and the Belgian transmission system operator (TSO) Elia.

The first contracts, with a combined value of approximately €500 million, have been awarded to Siemens and Japan-based J–Power Systems, a subsidiary of Sumitomo Electric Industries, Ltd. Siemens will build the converter stations in both Kent and Zeebrugge using their HVDC Plus technology and also will have a 5 year service and maintenance agreement. J-Power systems will design, manufacture and install a state-of-the-art HVDC XLPE (cross-linked polyethylene) cable system – the first time it will be used operationally as a high voltage direct current link at 400kV.

“We are delighted that Siemens and J-Power Systems have won these contracts,” commented Alan Foster, Nemo Link board member. “The use of this state-of-the-art cable technology allied to the very efficient converter stations will make Nemo Link the most innovative interconnector in Europe, bringing new supplies of competitively-priced electricity to the market.”

Nemo Link under way

Belgium is well connected with other countries in central Europe and the Nemo Link is expected to offer an additional option to improve security of supply, while also giving both countries access to a broader energy mix.

The Kent site was selected as offering the shortest route between the two countries, and also is in a region of high electricity demand. The high voltage grid in the coastal area of Belgium has insufficient capacity to satisfy important future needs in the Zeebrugge harbour region and grid reinforcements are also planned to connect offshore wind farms and other renewable initiatives in the area.

Preparation work is beginning at the Richborough site and other engineering design and site works will be commencing in both countries during the course of the year. It is anticipated that the interconnector will go into commercial operation in 2019.

Subsea cable market grows

A recent analysis from Navigant Research noted the trend for high voltage subsea systems to move toward HVDC technology, particularly for long-haul solutions, while HVAC is typically being used for shorter-haul systems.

In the current year the European market is estimated to represent almost three-quarters of the HV submarine electricity transmission market. With the extensive reconfiguration and expansion that Europe’s transmission system requires to accommodate the rapid growth of offshore and onshore wind generation, the region is expected to account for more than half of the global submarine cable projects over the next decade.

Navigant estimates the global market at $16.8 billion in 2015, growing by 4.4% annually to $24.8 billion in 2024.