Angela Merkel’s parting gesture to the UK as Chancellor looks to be approving with the Johnson administration the first direct power link between Germany and Britain.
During Friday’s reportedly frosty meeting at Chequers, the heads of both governments gave their blessing to NeuConnect, a £1.4 Billion privately funded interconnector under the North Sea.
Transmission flows of up to 700MW in both directions will be achieved from 2024, if investors Allianz Capital Partners, Hong-Kong headquartered Meridian Capital, and municipally-owned Kansai Electric get the project off dry ground and buried under the seabed. Major construction is due to begin next year.
Over two HVDC copper cables, each six inches or 150mm in diameter, NeuConnect’s 70 km will link Fedderwarden, near Wilhelmshaven to the Isle of Grain, Kent.
Northern Germany has a preponderance of wind generation, both onshore – where sympathetic locals call turbines ‘white asparagus’, after their cherished vegetable – and offshore.
Accelerated expansion at sea will take up the slack of Germany’s slowing turbine buildout on land . In November the Bundestag approved an expansion of German offshore capacity from around 8GW now, to 20GW by 2030 and 30GW by 2040. New construction will happen free of any subsidy.
Devolved Scotland has in the past made similar approaches to senior German politicians over wind energy. In June 2012 at Holyrood, Alex Salmond met David McAllister, then head of Germany’s regional government in Lower Saxony, to discuss linking generation in the North Sea. A former German foreign minister for Merkel’s CDU, the son of a Scots officer stationed in Berlin, McAllister is a Rangers fan.
NeuConnect’s routing through three nations’ waters takes it across the 630 MW/175 turbine London Array in the Thames Estuary, co-owned by RWE, Ørsted and Masdar, the UAE state-owned entity.
Around 150km further north on Dogger Bank is the world’s largest offshore farm, whose first of three phases totalling 3.6 GW starts generating in 2023.
Prime Minister Johnson praised NeuConnect for creating an “energy highway between the UK and Germany”.
“NeuConnect is the largest UK-German investment project currently underway. It will allow our energy grids to share excess power, making sure renewable energy is not wasted and helping both our economies decarbonise more rapidly,” he added.
Updating NeuConnect’s UK interconnector license has been a key enabler of the Chequer’s agreement. Over 25 years of its initial life, the pipe’s owners say it will carry clean electricity saving 16 Mt of carbon, the equivalent of planting 28 million new trees or removing 400,000 cars off the road in a year.
For more on NeuConnect, click here.