UK and Netherlands to jointly benefit from multi-use undersea power line

The cross-border electricity line will be built under the North Sea, connecting the UK and the Netherlands with offshore wind farms to boost both countries’ energy security.

The project, named LionLink, is expected to provide enough clean electricity to power 1.8 million homes – more than Birmingham and Manchester combined.

The 1.8GW power line is the second-largest multi-purpose cross-border electricity line ever built, after the one that currently connects Germany and Denmark. However, LionLink will be able to carry more than four times as much electricity as its predecessor – making it the largest of its kind in terms of capacity anywhere in the world, according to government sources. 

While normal interconnectors only connect two countries, the multi-purpose LionLink will join the UK and Netherlands to each other as well as simultaneously with offshore wind farms situated in the North Sea.

The construction of the power line was announced by the UK government at the same time as energy security secretary Grant Shapps leads a British business delegation to the North Sea Summit in Belgium. The summit will see nine countries – the UK, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Norway and the Netherlands – meet in Ostend to discuss future ambitions for building more offshore wind farms.

In this context, the LionLink project is one of the ways in which the countries present at the summit aim to increase clean energy production to help cut household bills, power the energy transition and reduce reliance on Russian gas. 

“Today’s historic deal with the Netherlands connects our two countries together through this exciting feat of innovation and engineering – the largest of its kind in the world,” Shapps said.

Together with the strong ties we have with our northern European neighbours united today at the North Sea Summit, we are bolstering our energy security and sending a strong signal to Putin’s Russia that the days of his dominance over global power markets are well and truly over.”

The Netherlands’ climate and energy minister Rob Jetten said: “With the North Sea becoming the largest supplier of green electricity for the Netherlands and large parts of Europe, we are ready to expand the interconnection between the two countries.

“Close collaboration on offshore wind energy and interconnection amongst the North Sea countries is imperative. So in case there is a surplus of wind-generated electricity, it can be shared instantly to locations with a shortage of power and vice versa.”

Although the UK currently has 8.4GW interconnector capacity, LionLink alone is expected to increase that figure by up to a fifth, meaning more clean and affordable power for UK homes and businesses.

According to the government, this increased interconnectivity would benefit both UK’s coastal communities and the environment by reducing the need for further onshore construction and visible infrastructure, as well as lessening the impact on the North Sea’s wildlife.

Ben Wilson, president of National Grid Ventures, added: “Connecting wind farms to multiple markets simultaneously is a game-changer for energy infrastructure and brings us one step closer to realising the enormous green energy potential of the North Sea.

“Not only can we deploy every spare electron where it is needed most, we can help to reduce the impact of infrastructure on coastal communities.”

Emma Pinchbeck, chief executive of the trade association Energy UK, said: “The UK’s re-engagement with European partners on North Sea Energy Cooperation is a welcome development and opens the door to creating a clean-energy future that can benefit countries across the North Sea whilst tackling the shared challenge of climate change.”

LionLink will be developed by National Grid Ventures and TenneT and it is expected to be operational by the early 2030s, the government said. 

During the summit, the UK energy security secretary is also expected to sign a memorandum of understanding between the UK and Denmark, which will ensure further collaboration on the transition from fossil fuels to renewable technologies, with a special focus on offshore wind.

The North Sea energy sector is expected to bring £20bn a year of investment to the UK’s coastal regions and create 40,000 skilled green jobs to Britain, according to official sources.

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