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Groundbreaking ceremony for German-British power line

Construction of the first German-British power connection has begun: The NeuConnect route is to run from Wilhelmshaven to the county of Kent and will supply 1.5 million households with electricity from 2028.

In order to connect the energy networks between Germany and Great Britain, the construction phase for the first power cable between the two countries has begun in Wilhelmshaven.

Near the planned German landing point, Federal Minister of Economics Robert Habeck, together with British Minister of State for Trade Policy Gregory Hands, Lower Saxony's Minister of Economic Affairs Olaf Lies and the chairwoman of the Neuconnect project company, Julia Prescot, symbolically broke ground.

Habeck said the new power connection would provide flexibility in the transport of renewable energy. “The more interconnected Europe is, the larger the network, the more efficiently the system can be operated and controlled and the major goal of decarbonization, i.e. a climate-neutral power supply, can be achieved.”

More than 700 kilometers of cable

The NeuConnect route connects the transmission networks of Germany and Great Britain over a length of around 720 kilometers. The power connection is to run from the planned Isle of Grain substation in the county of Kent to the Fedderwarden substation in the city of Wilhelmshaven. It also crosses the territory of the Netherlands.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs stated that the length of the German part of the line is 193 kilometers. In the North Sea, the route is planned as a submarine cable and on the German land side as an underground cable. The connection, with a capacity of 1.4 gigawatts, should be able to supply up to 1.5 million households with electricity. It is scheduled to go into operation in 2028.

Power supply possible in both directions

In particular, surplus wind power that is produced in the German North Sea but cannot currently be transported further due to bottlenecks in the power grid on land could be exported to Great Britain via the submarine cable. The United Kingdom is currently a net importer of electricity.

In principle, however, electricity transmission is possible and planned in both directions. The Federal Ministry of Economics therefore also pointed to the potential of the planned construction of British offshore wind farms as a contribution to the German electricity supply.

Plus for competition and Security of supply

Energy expert Harald Bradke from the Association of German Engineers (VDI) hopes that the new power connection will provide relief for consumers. “These interconnectors enable the exchange of electricity between the power grids in Europe and thus increase competition and security of supply,” explained Bradke.

Until the inner-German power lines from north to south are fully developed, German wind power will also flow to Great Britain through the new line. This will relieve the burden on German electricity customers, because at present, plants have to be throttled down when there is a high supply of wind power on the German coast.

Will Germany soon be an electricity importer instead of an exporter?

In the longer term, however, the VDI expert also assumes that large wind farms off the coast of Scotland will supply cheap electricity to Germany: “Due to the slow expansion of electricity generation from wind energy in our country, it is to be expected that Germany will develop from an electricity exporting country to an electricity importing country, at least in the medium term, as was already the case in 2023,” he explained.

Germany's power grid has been connected to those of its neighbors for years. Until 2022, electricity producers generated an export surplus. In 2023, for the first time, more was imported than exported. The shutdown of the last German nuclear power plants also contributed to this to a small extent, but above all it was a question of price: Much cheaper wind power was produced, especially in northern Europe, explained Bradke. Therefore, “the more expensive fossil-fueled German power plants were not needed.”

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