Giant undersea cables set to give the UK and Germany their first direct energy link

Onshore wind turbines in Germany. The NeuConnect project says the interconnector will enable Britain to “tap into the vast energy infrastructure in Germany, including its significant renewable energy sources.”

By Thomas E. Gunnarsson | Moment Open | Getty Images

Key contracts totaling more than £1.5 billion ($1.95 billion) have been awarded for a major interconnector project that will link Germany and the U.K., as countries around the world attempt to shore up their energy supplies amid the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.

The NeuConnect project is centered around subsea cables that will enable 1.4 gigawatts of electricity to pass in both directions between the U.K. and Germany — Europe’s two largest economies. The interconnector measures 725 kilometers, or just over 450 miles.

Those behind NeuConnect have dubbed the privately-financed venture an “invisible energy highway” and have described it as “the first direct link between the UK and German energy markets.”

The contracts that have been awarded relate to cabling works and converter stations. NeuConnect said Siemens Energy had been awarded the contract for the latter, which will involve the design and construction of sites in Germany and the U.K.

The NeuConnect project has previously said the interconnector will enable Britain to “tap into the vast energy infrastructure in Germany, including its significant renewable energy sources.”

For Germany, it says “the new link with Britain will help ease current bottlenecks where wind turbines are frequently powered-down due to an excess of renewable energy being created.”

Monday’s announcement said financial close on NeuConnect was slated for the “coming weeks,” which would allow works to begin at some point in 2022.

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The project has been in the works for some time now, but its progression comes at a time when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has highlighted just how reliant some economies are on Russian fossil fuels.

Indeed, while the war in Ukraine has created geopolitical tension and division, it has also resulted in a number of initiatives defined by cooperation and shared aims. 

The U.S. and European Commission, for example, recently issued a statement on energy security in which they announced the creation of a joint task force on the subject.

The parties said the U.S. would “strive to ensure” at least 15 billion cubic meters of extra liquefied natural gas volumes for the EU this year. They added this would be expected to increase in the future.

President Joe Biden said the U.S. and EU would also “work together to take concrete measures to reduce dependence on natural gas — period — and to maximize … the availability and use of renewable energy.”

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NeuConnect is not the only project focused on linking the U.K. with other parts of Europe.

Last year, a 450-mile subsea cable which connects the U.K. and Norway, enabling them to share renewable energy, began commercial operations.

The idea behind the North Sea Link, as it’s known, is for it to harness Norway’s hydropower and the U.K’s wind energy resources.

Back in the U.K., 2020 saw plans announced for a multi-billion pound “underwater energy superhighway” that would allow electricity produced in Scotland to be sent to the northeast of England.

The Eastern Link project, which is currently in the early stages of development, is to focus on the development of a pair of high-voltage direct current cables that will have a total capacity of 4 GW.