Electricity link between UK and the Netherlands seen as key step in connecting renewable energy to a European power grid.
It stretches 260km under the North Sea, contains 23,000 tonnes of copper and lead, and may represent the first step towards a renewable energy revolution based on a European electricity "supergrid". The £500m BritNed cable, which has just entered operation, is the first direct current electricity link from the UK to another country in 25 years.
The high voltage cable, a joint venture between the UK National Grid and the Dutch grid operator TenneT, has a capacity of 1,000MW, the equivalent of a nuclear power station. It runs from the Isle of Grain in Kent to Maasvlakte, near Rotterdam, in the Netherlands.
High voltage DC (HVDC) cables allow electricity to be transmitted over much greater distances than existing alternating current lines, which start losing power after 80km. A network of HVDC cables across Europe is seen as the key to "weather-proofing" the large scale use of renewable energy, some forms of which are intermittent and have to be balanced in real time with generation elsewhere.