The world’s biggest extension leads

  • Why do we need electricity interconnectors?
  • How can they help with our energy bills?

What are electricity interconnectors?

They are underground and undersea cables which allow energy to be transmitted across borders. Interconnectors physically link countries’ electricity transmission systems to one another, meaning that power can be traded between them. Think of it like a giant extension lead, but one where power flows in both directions, connecting us with our neighbours in France, the Netherlands, Ireland and Northern Ireland.


Why do we need them?

They stop us relying on a single power network, as they let us trade energy with other countries. This makes for a more secure and affordable energy supply. So if the price of energy is cheaper in France than in Britain tomorrow, then we might import energy from our Gallic cousins. The next day, however, our energy prices might be lower, in which case France would take their energy from us.

In other words, interconnectors give us more supply options. It means that we can also receive energy from renewable European sources – such as wind and solar – which is better for the environment.


Sounds like we should have more of them?

We should, but building them is a costly and lengthy task, and far more expensive than standard overhead transmission lines. Our relatively low level of interconnection is the price we pay for being an island nation. There are a number of projects coming up that will help – including further links to France, Norway, Iceland, Denmark and Belgium. Together with our current interconnectors, these would provide almost one fifth of Britain’s peak power demand.


What could this mean for my energy bill?

A 2014 report published by the National Grid claimed that doubling our interconnector capacity could lower our energy prices by 1-2%, as we can import more European energy at a lower cost. We’ll also enjoy more green energy flowing our way – from Norway’s hydropower to Denmark’s wind power and Iceland’s geothermal energy.


Words: Andy Mower

Andy is the editor of Energy Spectrum, a weekly guide to the energy sector, produced by Cornwall Energy.



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