The ElecLink is a 320kV high-voltage direct current (HVDC) bi-directional interconnection project being developed to transfer up to 1GW of electricity between the United Kingdom (UK) and France via the Channel Tunnel.

The cross-border transmission system will be owned and operated by ElecLink, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Getlink, which owns the Channel Tunnel concessionaire, Eurotunnel. It is considered to be the first interconnector in Europe to be fully financed through private funds.

The Commission de régulation de l’énergie (CRE) of France and the UK’s Office of the Gas and Electricity Markets Authority (Ofgem) certified ElecLink as a transmission system operator in the respective countries in the first quarter of 2019.

The ElecLink Interconnector was recognised as a project of common interest (PCI) by the European Union (EU) in 2013 and the European Commission (EC) also approved ElecLink’s request for regulatory exemption of up to 800MW for a period of 25 years in July 2014.

The construction works on the interconnector project which involves an estimated investment of approximately £540m (€580m) were started in 2016.

The main construction works were completed by the end of 2020 while the cable pull through the Channel Tunnel is expected to be completed in 2021 with the transmission system scheduled to be commercially online by the mid of 2022.

Once operational, the ElecLink Interconnector is expected to increase the existing interconnection capacity of both the countries by approximately 50%, and supply electricity to approximately  two million UK and French  households, while helping the low carbon transition of both the countries by offsetting approximately 6.1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions a year.

ElecLink route and design details

The ElecLink Interconnector involves two convertor stations, one in Folkestone, UK and the other one in Peuplingues, France. The convertor stations will be connected through approximately 51km of bi-directional HVDC cables passing through the existing railway tunnel Channel Tunnel that accounts for approximately 26% of trade in goods between the UK and continental Europe.

The Folkestone convertor station is connected through 14.5km of underground AC cable with National Grid Electricity Transmission’s (NGET) substation in Sellindge, UK, while the Peuplingues convertor station is connected through 3.5km of underground AC cable to Réseau de Transport d'Électricité’s (RTE) substation in Les Mandarins, France.

The project also involves switchgear and associated electrical connection equipment at the Sellindge and Les Mandarins substations.

Both the convertor stations will incorporate voltage-sourced converters in a modular multilevel converter arrangement (VSC-MMC) to convert the electricity from DC to AC and vice versa.

Contractors involved

Siemens Energy was awarded an engineering, procurement, and construction contract worth approximately £270m (€315m) for the two convertor stations of the project in February 2017.

The consortium of Balfour Beatty and Prysmian was awarded a contract worth £188m (€219m) for the manufacturing and installation of the DC cables in the tunnel as well as for the underground AC cable system in the UK.

RTE oversaw the installation of the underground AC cables in France, while NGET supervised the connection works at the Sellindge substation in the UK.