Regulator Ofgem has inched closer to approving two giant undersea interconnectors totalling 4 GW and funded to the tune of £3.4 billion, together hailed as the biggest infrastructure link in recent British history.
The regulator has launched a ‘final needs case’ consultation ending on 4 May, as three companies bring forward the mammoth Eastern Link projects, designed to keep pace with output from Britain’s burgeoning offshore wind sector.
National Grid’s transmission arm NGET is partnering with Scotland’s two transmission operators on the twinned projects.
On the first, Iberdrola-owned Scottish Power Energy Networks will assist in laying a 2GW cable buried for 176km under the sea bed between Torness in east Lothian and Hawthorn Pit in County Durham.
Torness is already a major landing point for offshore generation. Commissioning is scheduled for 2027.
A second cable running for 440 km from Peterhead to the Yorkshire coast, close to Drax’s pellet burners, completes the Eastern Link. National Grid will partner this time with SSE, with commissioning anticipated for 2029.
Ofgem’s final decision on both schemes is expected this June or July.
North of the border, the Holyrood government refers to the twinned Eastern Link projects as SEGL, or the Scotland-England Green Link. Originally conceived in 2020 with only 2GW of capacity, they are considered essential in delivering offshore Scots generation now at 4 GW and scheduled to reach 10GW by the end of the decade.
Introducing its final consultation, Ofgem flags the need to forestall network choke points, with increased costs for curtailment then falling on consumers, as reasons for advancing the projects’ approval.
“We remain satisfied that there is a clear consumer benefit in the Eastern HVDC projects progressing”, says the consultation document.
“We continue to appreciate the risk that not delivering substantial reinforcements in this area could cause a significant detriment to consumers in terms of constraint costs.”
Peterhead Football Club tomorrow night hosts the first of SSE’s final public consultations on the link to Yorkshire.
SP Energy Networks CEO Frank Mitchell said: “SP Energy Networks has welcomed Ofgem’s consultation on the final proposals for the first two HVDC links for the UK’s east coast”.
“It is critical to minimise future costs to all consumers, and these projects can be delivered at the pace required”, Mitchell asserted.
Renewable UK’s director of future electricity systems Barnaby Wharton said: “The decision to take the next step forward on the Eastern Link projects is great news for consumers and the environment.
“Onshore is the cheapest form of electricity generation we have, so getting on with these projects means that we will be able to deliver even more power produced by wind farms in Scotland to consumers in England. Having more transmission capacity means that we won’t have to curtail wind generation when the networks can’t cope, saving consumers even more.”