Ofgem has announced it will be inviting bids to build more high voltage interconnectors for its third investment round next year. The expansion of interconnectors, alongside other forms of flexibility, will play an important role in our future net zero energy system – providing additional energy security and system balancing, creating a more competitive electricity market, as well as increasing the utilisation of renewable energy.
As seen in the graphic, the UK’s newest interconnector, the North Sea link, came online this October, connecting the UK to Norway for the first time. The interconnector enables the UK to benefit from Norway’s fast responding renewable energy, i.e. hydropower, and in return, the UK can send excess wind power to Norway, enabling them to conserve the finite water level of the hydropower sites. The North Sea link brings the total capacity of interconnectors to around 8GW and in the next few years, the total capacity should rise to a total of around 10.5GW as two more interconnectors power on; one will be our first connection with Denmark and the other, another connection with France.
Ofgem stated that to support offshore wind targets, next year’s investment round will aim to double the current interconnector capacity by 2030. Analysis from BEIS and Ofgem as part of the 2021 Smart Systems and Flexibility Plan endorses this further interconnection; it suggests that increasing our interconnector capacity by constructing a third of the remaining proposed sites (see graphic), would save around £1 billion/year in system costs (2012 prices) in fully decarbonised energy system.
There are also plans for interconnection with Morocco; recent announcements of the Xlinks Morocco-UK Power project featured plans of a 3.6 GW of import capacity fed by dedicated wind and solar.