A major new project to install an interconnector linking the electricity markets of Britain and France via the Channel Tunnel has just put down its foundations.
The foundation stone of the Folkestone Converter Station was laid on Thursday by Jesse Norman, UK Minister for Industry and Energy. The ElecLink 1 GW Direct Current link is expected to cost around £580m.
The project will generate approximately 300 new jobs during the construction phase together with ongoing jobs needed for the operations and maintenance throughout the life of the project.
The interconnector will provide enough capacity for more than 1.65 million homes per year, increasing the current Anglo-French exchange capacity by one half, and enhancing the security of electricity supply for industrial and business consumers.
ElecLink will help to solve the ‘energy trilemma’ identified by the World Energy Council by maintaining security of supply, transitioning to a ”cleaner” economy and keeping prices low for consumers as future electric demand increases and adapts to population growth and the adoption of new transport modes for example electric cars.
ElecLink will have a very low environmental impact by making use of the existing Channel Tunnel infrastructure for its cable system, thus avoiding any interference with marine life. It is also expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 6 million tonnes by enabling demand in Britain and France to be met by the most efficient generating plants.
A project endorsed by the French and the British government and the European Commission, the project has been granted a 25 year exemption by regulators enabling ElecLink to operate as a private interconnector and to sell its electricity capacity over time.
It will be delivered with world leading partners. Siemens has been designated to construct the converter stations in both UK and France; the fabrication and installation of the DC cables inside the Channel Tunnel and the underground AC cables on the UK side is allocated to Balfour Beatty / Prysmian; RTE will undertake the installation of the underground AC cables in France.
Jesse Norman, Minister for Industry and Energy, said: “’As a Government, we are strongly supportive of greater electricity trading with our European partners in order to lower household bills and deliver energy security as part of our modern industrial strategy. We’ve created the right environment for cooperative projects like ElecLink to attract investment and compete in the market without needing financial support from our tax and bill payers.”
Jacques Gounon, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Groupe Eurotunnel, said: “ElecLink further underlines how important the Channel Tunnel is to Britain and France. Not only is it a vital transport link, it is set to play an instrumental part in the supply of electricity to the UK, France and continental Europe. With the debate over the future of energy security brought into focus recently, ElecLink delivers a smart and environmentally friendly way to secure the electricity supply. We are proud to be inaugurating ElecLink this great project which will significantly benefit the economies and consumers in both France and the United Kingdom.”
The ElecLink interconnector is one of the most advanced new interconnection projects across Europe and the first of its kind between Britain and France since 1986, when the existing IFA (Interconnection France-Angleterre) interconnector was commissioned.
Balfour Beatty, the international infrastructure group, in a consortium with Prysmian, was awarded a €219million contract by ElecLink Ltd to install the 65km electricity cable. It is the world’s first installation of a High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) interconnector in a live rail tunnel environment.
Prysmian Group will be responsible for the design and manufacture of the 320kV cabling and jointing services.
Balfour Beatty will deliver efficiencies in the construction programme through using offsite jointing facilities in Calais and Folkestone to assemble 2.5km sections of cable and computer modelling to model the build in a virtual environment. Balfour Beatty has developed a unique system for the transportation and installation of the cable which minimises risk, enables efficient installation and addresses the effect of high voltage cable heat emissions in a live tunnel environment.
Meanwhile Adam Vaughan in the Guardian tweeted on Friday that repairs to the anchor-damaged UK-France interconnector will be complete at the end of March, at a cost of £30-40m, according to French grid operator RTE.