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UK's second interconnector with France starts flowing at full capacity in ‘latest feat of world class engineering’

Image: Getty.

Image: Getty.

The second electricity interconnector between the UK and France is now able to flow low carbon electricity between the two countries at full capacity.

IFA2 – which is a joint venture between National Grid and French Transmission System Operator RTE – is being heralded for increasing the amount of clean energy that can be shared, with a capacity of 1,000MW.

Wholesale power traders started buying capacity to transport power across the 149-mile subsea power cable yesterday (21 January 2021). The cable stretches along the sea floor between Portsmouth, Hampshire in the UK and near Caen, Normandy in France and is expected to meet 1.2% of Britain’s electricity demand.

The first interconnector developed between the two has been “successfully operating for more than 30 years”, according to Jon Butterworth, managing director of National Grid Ventures. IFA2 takes National Grid’s portfolio of operational interconnectors up to four, with two linking the UK to France (IFA and IFA2), one to the Netherlands (BritNed) and one to Belgium (Nemo Link).

Flexibility providers have been called upon a number of times in the past few years as a result of some of these interconnectors tripping, including the IFA and the Belgian Nemo Link. In June 2019, the IFA interconnector tripped, causing around 1GW of capacity to fall off the system and grid frequency to drop to 49.63Hz.

A similar event happened with the IFA in October 2020, with frequency falling to 49.597Hz. However, on this occasion National Grid ESO's new Dynamic Containment service was called upon, with Arenko and Flexitricity helping to bring frequency back to normal levels.

The same year, the Belgium interconnector also tripped. This was during its first full month of operation, with batteries also called into action on this occasion.

Alongside the four interconnectors currently in operation, a further two are under construction, with one to Norway to be operational this year and one to Denmark to be operational in 2023.

It is expected that by 2030, 90% of electricity imported via National Grid’s interconnectors will be from zero carbon sources. It is expecting IFA2 to prevent 1.2 million tonnes of CO2 from entering the atmosphere in its first full year of operation.

Construction of the interconnector – which started in 2018 – saw 1,000 engineers and specialists work a total of 3.2 million working hours.

Butterworth continued to add that National Grid is “delighted to have been able to again work with our partners RTE to strengthen the connection between the French and British power grids”, describing IFA2 as “the latest feat of world class engineering” set to help decarbonise the electricity systems of Britain and France.

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