The UK government has refused development consent for the controversial AQUIND interconnector.
First proposed in 2016, the 2,000MW subsea and underground High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) transmission link would have connected Portsmouth on the south coast of England and Dieppe in France.
However the £1.2 billion project has faced staunch protests from residents and groups in Portsmouth, with Portsmouth City Council saying the route of the interconnector would cause significant disruption to residents.
Additional concerns were also raised around the connection the project developers had to parliament, with reports that the company and its co-owner Alexander Temerko had donated over £1 million to the Conservative party.
Following a number of delays in the decision-making process however, secretary of state for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Kwasi Kwarteng yesterday (20 January) rejected the approval for the project.
“The decision to reject the AQUIND Interconnector project is right for the people of Portsmouth and the city,” said leader of Portsmouth City Council, councillor Gerald Vernon Jackson.
“Residents spoke out against the plans and I am delighted that their voices have been heard and the secretary of state has listened to our objections. I would like to thank everyone who has been involved in campaigning against AQUIND. This is a victory for the people of Portsmouth.”
In a letter announcing Kwarteng’s decision, it was noted that given the adverse effects of the project, in particular the proposed landfall in an urban location, it is necessary to consider if there are “more appropriate alternatives to the proposed route”.
In a statement reacting to the decision, AQUIND said it was “naturally disappointed”, pointing to the recommendation in favour of the interconnector by the apolitical, independent Examining Authority and the government’s policy promoting the support of new interconnectors.
In December 2021, Ofgem invited bids for new electricity interconnectors, in an effort to increase energy security in the UK. It is planning to hold a third investment round under its “cap and floor” revenue regime in 2022, to bring forward billions of pounds of interconnectors.
Britain has seven operational interconnectors currently, which have a collective capacity of 7.4GW. These link the country to Ireland, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Norway.
In October, the world’s longest sub-sea interconnector – the North Sea Link – began operation. It connects Blyth in Northumberland and the Norwegian village of Kvilldal, near Stavanger, which in itself increased Britain’s interconnector capacity by 1,400MW.
AQUIND stated: “We disagree with the decision of the secretary of state, and the rationale behind it. We are considering the decision, the grounds for the refusal, and a potential legal challenge (Judicial Review). We believe our application for a Development Consent Order to be accurate and robust, and it has met all the requirements. We will continue the development of AQUIND Interconnector, and we will be engaging with the relevant parties in the coming weeks.”
It pointed to the potential for the interconnector to help reduce the impact of volatile gas and coal prices, which have led electricity bills to soar during the autumn and winter. The company said the AQUIND interconnector could save individuals and families billions of pounds over the 25 years of operation it was proposed for, along with helping the nation meet its net zero target by balancing intermittent renewables.
With gas prices in Europe surging by around 500% in 2021, wholesale electricity prices in the UK have reached record highs in recent months. There is growing concern over the impact this will have on consumer bills when the price cap is reset in April.