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Journey to the centre of the interconnections: building the European electricity network and strengthening security of supply.

Source: RTE 23/05/2005

On 4 May 2005, RTE organised a press trip looking at the France-England and France-Belgium interconnections, attended by the European Commissioner for Energy, Andris Piebalgs.

France- England Interconnection: co-ordinated management of cross-border exchanges

The delegation, led by RTE Director André Merlin, began with a visit to the electric substation "Les Mandarins", near Calais; this is the point at which the undersea power cable linking the European mainland with the UK leaves French soil.

The electricity exchange capacities of the undersea cable have been open to competition since 1 April 2001. However, the maximum power that can be transported across the link is restricted to 2000 Megawatts (MW). To ensure that rights of passage across the interconnection are allocated between all market players (traders, suppliers, generators, etc.) in a fair and non-discriminatory manner, on 1 April 2001 the French and English transmission system operators, RTE and NGT (National Grid Transco) introduced a co-ordinated system of auctions, which acts as a bilateral mechanism for allocating electric capacities.

These auctions help ensure that power is exchanged smoothly and transparently, while guaranteeing enhanced security of supply in both countries. In December 2003, RTE and NGT signed mutual assistance agreements. Under the terms of these agreements, if one of the two power systems fails for any reason, either TSO can gain priority access to a real-time power reserve capacity of up to 1,000 MW.

France ? Belgium Interconnection: the importance of developing interconnections

The delegation then moved on to inspect the work being carried out to strengthen the France-Belgium interconnection, accompanied by André Merlin, Andris Piebalgs, the European Commissioner for Energy, Marc Verwilghen, the Belgian Minister for Economy and Energy, and Daniel Dobbeni, director of the Belgian transmission system operator, ELIA.

The work involves adding a second circuit to the 400,000 V line linking the substation at Avelin (near Lille) with Avelgem (Belgium). Work began during the second half of 2004, and is expected to be completed in November 2005.
This interconnection line between France and Belgium is one of the points where flows on the European electricity market currently become congested: the cross-border power lines are insufficient to carry all the physical flows resulting from the increasing international exchanges brought about by the opening of the market. Reinforcing the Avelin ? Avelgem line will allow cross-border flows to be increased by up to 1,500 Megawatts.

Strengthening the interconnections between France and Belgium is one of the key targets of the memorandum of understanding signed on 7 March 2005, by Patrick Devedjian, the French Minister for Industry, and his Belgian counterpart, Marc Verwilghen. The imminent creation of Belpex, a Belgian power exchange which will be coupled with the existing French and Dutch exchanges, will be the first to take advantage of the increased interconnection capacities between France and Belgium.

During the trip, the delegates spoke about the key role played by interconnections in the opening of the European electricity market. They also highlighted the importance of developing interconnections to guarantee the security of electricity supply to the European Union.

View the press kit.