Frequently Asked Questions
- What sort of permissions / consents does the FAB Link Project need?
- How long will it take to build the FAB Link Project?
- As a large infrastructure project, are there any security risks?
- Why not just build more power stations?
- Isn’t the real reason for the project to make money for private sector investors?
- Will new overhead lines be built?
- Will “Brexit” affect the project?
- Is the real purpose of the link to import nuclear power from France into England?
- Are other links to France being developed?
- How many other interconnectors does Britain have?
- Why build a link to France rather than to a country to which there isn’t a link already?
- Will the link make Britain more dependent on imported power?
- What about EMFs (electro-magnetic fields)?
- What if oil leaks out of the cables?
- I’ve heard the ground above the cables will be sterilised. Isn’t this bad?
- What are the benefits of the FAB Link Project for Alderney?
- Why can’t we see the final plans for the FAB Link Project on Alderney?
- Is it true the FAB Link Project just wants to come via Alderney so it will get money from the EU?
- Why does the FAB Link Project want to come through Alderney?
- How big will the trench be across Alderney?
- What are the ecological impacts on Alderney?
- What about the war graves on Longis Common in Alderney?
- Why no cheap power for Alderney?
- Why can’t we see the plans for the converter station on Alderney?
What sort of permissions / consents does the FAB Link Project need?
FAB Link Limited has obtained the following key consents in the UK:
- Outline Planning Permission for a Converter Station from East Devon District Council (EDDC, July 2017)
- Certificate of Lawful Development for a proposed use or development in relation to the proposed cable and associated works from East Devon District Council (EDDC, June 2017)
- Marine Licence Application for offshore cable laying works to the Marine Management Organisation (MMO, December 2017)
FAB Link Limited has submitted the following applications:
- FEPA Licence Application for offshore cable laying works to the States of Guernsey (Office of Environmental Health and Pollution Regulation, submitted December 2016, waiting decision)
- FEPA Licence Application for offshore cable laying works to the States of Guernsey for an Alternative Offshore Cable Route (Office of Environmental Health and Pollution Regulation, submitted November 2017, waiting decision)
The selection of the final cable route (over or around Alderney) will not be confirmed until the conclusion of the ongoing review of the Land Use Plan and proposed amendment to the Building and Development Control (Alderney) Law 2002 which is expected to conclude in mid-2018.
Our partner RTE is coordinating the consents required for the onshore cables and converter station in France which comprise of:
- Declaration of Public Utility (DUP) for the HVDC cables that will give the authorisation of the urban planning compatibility of Siouville-Hague and the right to establish easements in case of disagreement with the owners;
- Declaration of Public Utility (DUP) of expropriation for the converter station;
- Concession for the use of the Maritime Public Domain (CUDPM) for the offshore HVDC cables was signed by RTE on 7th August 2017, with signature by the French Authorities granted in December 2017; and
- Water Act Authorisation for the HVDC offshore Cables, granted in December 2017.
- An application for a Water Act Declaration for the converter station was submitted in July 2016 and a draft approval was received in December 2016 and updated in March 2017. A modification is currently being processed.
There are a number of other operational consents and permissions that are required in all jurisdictions closer to the construction that can only be obtained after appointment of the installation contractor who will be able to progress the detailed design that will be necessary to inform these applications.
How long will it take to build the FAB Link Project?
Based on the timescales of similar projects we estimate that construction could start as early as 2020. Onshore and offshore construction works will take approximately three years for the whole project, although works for individual components, such as the landfalls, will take shorter periods of time.
As a large infrastructure project, are there any security risks?
The FAB Link Project is not classified as Critical National Infrastructure. Notwithstanding this position, FAB Link Limited commissioned a specialist risk management consultancy to provide an objective Threat Assessment in line with UK Government and Security Service methodology and protocols which confirmed the attractiveness of the FAB link Project to be very low and no mitigation required.
Why not just build more power stations?
The role of the interconnector is not to replace the requirement for new generation within the UK or Europe as and when this is needed. However, there is currently a significant need for additional power at times of high demand.
Interconnectors are generation unit or technology independent and have very high operational availability therefore increase the security of supply to a greater degree than a single power station of the same size.
The increase in the proportion of intermittent renewable generation across Europe has led to a more volatile generation fleet to meet the overall demand. The ability to transport electricity from places where there is high electricity generation to areas of high demand has therefore become more important. Interconnectors across national borders in particular are useful in this regard.
Isn’t the real reason for the project to make money for private sector investors?
FAB Link Limited will be financed by the private sector, but the FAB Link Project will also be regulated by the British regulator, Ofgem, and the French regulator, Commission de Régulation de l’Energie (CRE), who will ensure that the project is in the public interest and will regulate to ensure that any profits over a certain level are passed to electricity consumers.
Will new overhead lines be built?
No new overhead lines will be built as part of the FAB Link Project; all power will be transmitted by underground (or underwater) cables.
Will “Brexit” affect the project?
The partners developing the FAB Project remain fully committed to the 1.4GW electricity interconnector between Britain and France after the French energy regulator said it needed more clarity on the conditions of the UK’s exit from the European Union.
In December 2017, the CRE (Commission de régulation de l’énergie/Regulatory Commission of Energy), wrote to the FAB Project’s French partners, RTE (Réseau de Transport d’Electricité), saying it is not yet in a position to offer its support to future electricity interconnector projects between Britain and France beyond those already approved.
Nevertheless, the team behind the FAB Project remains confident in the long-term economic case for increased trade in electricity between Britain and France.
Given that regulatory support is an essential part of the project, this decision will inevitably lead to a delay to our programme of development and subsequent construction. We are studying the CRE’s announcement in detail and are exploring all options to ensure the project achieves a final investment decision as quickly as possible. We remain committed to finding the best way to proceed so we can complete this project of international importance.
Is the real purpose of the link to import nuclear power from France into England?
The FAB Link Project will not distinguish between different sources of electricity within the French market. Indeed, it would be illegal for it to do so.
While nuclear power is an important source of energy in France, power sourced in the French market could equally well be from gas generation, wind power, or from hydro power, or it could itself have been imported from other countries like Spain and Germany.
Are other links to France being developed?
We are aware of some other proposals, and of course there is an existing GB-France link that has been in service for nearly 30 years. However, the existing GB-France link is small relative to the demand to trade power between the countries, and this will remain the case even when new links are added. Our studies show that there is sufficient demand to justify building all of the links in advanced development in addition to the FAB Link Project.
How many other interconnectors does Britain have?
There is one other link to France in service. It has been in place for nearly 30 years and is insufficient to meet the demand for power trading between these countries.
A cable between Britain and the Netherlands commissioned in 2011, provides the second connection between Britain and the Continent. Two further links connect Britain to Ireland.
Despite these links, the UK has (relative to its size) one of lowest amounts of electrical connection to its neighbours of any European country.
Why build a link to France rather than to a country to which there isn’t a link already?
Although there is an existing link to France, it is not sufficiently large to meet the demand for power trading between these countries.
Links to countries not already connected to Britain (e.g. Belgium, Norway and Denmark) are being considered by others – but these do not reduce the need for increased capacity between Britain and France.
Will the link make Britain more dependent on imported power?
No, it will improve security of supply in both countries since both countries will be able to call on each other for mutual assistance.
What about EMFs (electro-magnetic fields)?
The FAB Link Project cables will have a metallic sheath which will completely contain any electric fields. There will be no impact on human health or the environment from electric fields from the FAB Link Project – because there will be no electric fields outside of the cables.
Magnetic fields are all around us, and are measured in units called micro-Teslas. The Earth itself has a magnetic field which varies between 70 micro-Teslas at the poles and 30 at the equator. In the UK it is around 40 micro-Teslas.
Internationally accepted guidelines (International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection, 1994, 1998, 2009 and 2010) say the maximum level people should be exposed to is 500 micro-Teslas. In normal operation, the FAB Link Project cables will result in levels of around 20 micro-Teslas above the cables, so similar to the natural magnetic field all around us. Besides, these levels decrease rapidly as the distance from the cables increases (3µT at 5m from the cables, and 2 µT at 10 m).
The World Health Organisation’s website provides further information on EMFs: http://www.who.int/topics/electromagnetic_fields/en/
What if oil leaks out of the cables?
There are no oils within the FAB Link Project cables and it will be constructed with a range of metals and plastics, of which all are environmentally secure. In addition, the onshore cable system ducts and joint bays don’t have any oils as part of their works, being constructed of plastics, metals and concretes.
I’ve heard the ground above the cables will be sterilised. Isn’t this bad?
We need to be sure that nothing is built above our cables, to avoid damaging them and because we may need to access them for maintenance purposes in the future. Water and other utility companies use similar agreements, for the same reasons. Although it sounds very negative, when people talk about sterilisation in planning terms it’s nothing to do with biology, it means preventing development. Sterilised land is land which cannot be built on, or mined for minerals, because there is something built underneath it. The presence of our cables does not prevent the continued use of the land for its original purpose.
What are the benefits of the FAB Link Project for Alderney?
If the route across Alderney is progressed, the immediate benefits arising from the FAB Link Project would be revenue associated with laying the cables in the land and seabed owned by the States of Alderney. These rights were secured through an option agreement with the States of Alderney in September 2015. The electricity cables also utilise fibre optic cables for the control systems of the FAB Link Project – there will be significant spare capacity in the system which will be made available to the operators on the Island by ARE. This will provide existing and future generations with the opportunity to access significantly improved infrastructure necessary to attract e-commerce businesses in accordance with the aims of the Land Use Plan.
Longer term opportunities would arise from the ability to connect in future tidal energy generated from the territorial waters of Alderney which would in turn trigger further revenues from the licensing of offshore development sites. This would also provide the opportunity for the residents and businesses on the Island to access cheaper electricity from the UK and France.
Why can’t we see the final plans for the FAB Link Project on Alderney?
We undertook a 42 day consultation in Alderney on our draft plans and associated environmental reports in July and August 2016. The responses to the consultation will be taken into account in finalising a planning application for the underground cables. Subject to the planning application for underground cables across Alderney being progressed, there will be a further consultation period and opportunity for local residents, businesses and other interested parties to comment on our proposals.
However, we are unable to submit a planning application until the conclusion of the ongoing review of the Land Use Plan and proposed amendment to the Building and Development Control (Alderney) Law 2002 which is expected to conclude in mid-2018.
Is it true the FAB Link Project just wants to come via Alderney so it will get money from the EU?
No. The FAB Link Project is a designated EU Project of Common Interest (PCI) because of the benefits associated with linking the electricity grids of the UK and France – lower electricity prices, energy security and more efficient transmission of low carbon energy. As a PCI, the Project receives EU support of €7.2 million which covers approximately half of the costs associated with the development phase of the project. The provision of the EU funding is not conditional on the FAB Link Project traversing Alderney. We will receive no further EU funding and the funding required for construction will be sourced from private investment secured against future revenues.
Why does the FAB Link Project want to come through Alderney?
The primary function of the FAB Link Project is to build and operate a 220km electricity interconnector between the UK and France, so electricity can be traded between the two countries.
However, the tides off Alderney are among the most powerful in Europe and there is enormous potential to generate a great deal of clean, reliable energy. As the cost of oil and gas rises across the world, and in order to meet ever more ambitious de-carbonisation targets, demand for renewable energy such as tidal electricity will only increase. So Alderney is in a very good position to generate and sell this electricity to Britain, France and beyond.
As a tidal developer and partner in FAB Link Limited, local company Alderney Renewable Energy is also a strong supporter of the FAB Link Project being able to provide a route to market for future tidal stream energy.
The initial cable route was proposed to be via the channel island of Alderney in order to ease the connection of future renewable tidal stream generation in the seas around Alderney. However, due to delays and uncertainties relating to the consenting process, an alternative route has been developed to the east of Alderney that does not preclude the future connection of tidal generation in Alderney waters.
How big will the trench be across Alderney?
The project will use four (two pairs of two) high voltage direct current (HVDC) cables which when installed will be entirely underground. The landfalls at Longis Bay and Corblets Bay will be constructed by either Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD) under the sea defences and beach or open-cut trenching. Impacts on tourism will be mitigated by avoiding works in July and August for the landfalls in Alderney, UK and France.
The marine cables will be connected to the land cables in a transition joint bay (TJB) buried in the ground above the high water mark. There will be 2 TJBs, each measuring approximately 15x2m and installed to a depth of up to 3m below ground level. From these TJB’s, it is expected the cables will then be laid to a maximum depth of 1.5m in two separate trenches that will be approximately 1.5m wide and spaced no more than 5m apart. In some sections of the route across Longis Common, the working corridor will be limited to 5m width to minimise the impact on the ecological habitat, which may lead to all four cables being laid in a single trench. All trenches will be backfilled and the land re-instated. As all of the infrastructure will installed underground, the only disturbance will be from the construction process, not the operation of the cables.
What are the ecological impacts on Alderney?
Maintaining the unique, unspoiled environment of Alderney is a top priority for the FAB Link Project.
The FAB Link Project asked the Alderney Wildlife Trust, as the local experts, to look into this for us. They undertook an extensive 12-month study to establish the ecological baseline of Longis Common. Any potential impact of the project during construction and operation could then be appraised against the specific ecological receptors identified along the cable route and those noted within a corridor of 500 m.
A range of mitigation measures has been identified, including avoidance of the better areas of habitat by aligning the route with an existing footpath which has reduced the species diversity of the habitats in this location due to trampling, realigning the route to avoid the area of reed beds, and a further stretch of the proposed route lies along an existing road. Minimisation of land-take will also be achieved by maintaining a maximum working width for the onshore cable trenches of 5m in the coastal grassland habitats of Longis Common.
Methods of reinstatement will be used to ensure as much of the existing top-soils are carefully stored and segregated to ensure that each habitat is replaced in the appropriate location to allow regeneration. This would form a good basis for the reinstatement of the existing habitats, in combination with a maintenance period with measures in place to manage the development of colonising ruderal weed species, which might otherwise take over the disturbed areas of habitat.
The intertidal areas of both landfalls have also been surveyed by the Centre for Marine and Coastal Studies (CMACS) with common eelgrass (Zostera marina) identified up to the rocky edges of Raz Island and extending to a depth of 11m below sea level. In consultation with Alderney Wildlife Trust, we have proposed an exclusion zone to ensure that cable installation works do not result in significant impacts to this sensitive habitat.
What about the war graves on Longis Common in Alderney?
The route has been carefully selected to avoid all known sites of archaeological interest. Extensive research has been undertaken in association with the Alderney Society and other interested parties to determine the extent of the war graves on Longis Common which were extensively documented prior to their careful removal in the 1950s. As a precautionary measure, we have incorporated an additional ‘no excavation’ buffer area around the demarcated war grave sites.
As with any cable trenching in areas of previously known archaeological interest, an archaeological watching brief and management plan would be maintained during those parts of the construction programme that require ground clearance and excavation. All elements would be agreed with the Alderney Building and Development Control Committee before construction starts
Why no cheap power for Alderney?
The FAB Link Project is to construct an interconnector linking the national grids of Britain and France. The cables will carry high voltage direct current (HVDC) which cannot be used in homes and offices as they use a lower voltage alternating current (230V AC).
Converter stations will be built in the UK and France to convert this HVDC into high voltage AC power which will then be fed into existing substations. The voltage will then be lowered in steps through the distribution system to the 230V used in our homes and offices.
So to be able to take advantage of the electricity transmitted through the cables, Alderney would need its own dedicated converter station which would only be viable as part of any future tidal power development which is a long term opportunity brought by the FAB Link Project
Why can’t we see the plans for the converter station on Alderney?
The FAB Link Project does not include a converter station on Alderney, so we can’t show any plans. Potential contractors have been made aware a converter station may be built in the future as part of the tidal generation connection solution so that any work they do for the FAB Link Project is compatible with this concept.
The FAB Link Project launched a competitive tender process in accordance with EU Regulations in July 2016 for the contract to build the interconnector and related infrastructure and received preliminary bids in January 2017. The FAB Link Project included an option for a converter station in Alderney in the EPC tender documentation for the following reasons:
- It is important to establish that the interconnector is technically capable of being connected to an optional converter station in the future to confirm the feasibility of connecting future tidal energy.
- Having a range of proposed technical parameters associated with this optional converter station will provide a more realistic design envelope that will provide the basis for reports that will be submitted as part of the pre-application planning process for the tidal development, whereupon all States members, stakeholders and residents will be able to review and comment on their proposal which remains separate from the planning process for the FAB Link Project.
- It is useful to know the expected costs associated with this optional converter station and to have an option for its supply should the proposed tidal scheme proceed.
Subject to the outcome of the review of the Land Use Plan and proposed amendment to the Building and Development Control (Alderney) Law 2002, FAB Link Limited would then be able to make a decision on whether the cables will be route around or over Alderney. If the onshore application is progressed in Alderney, FAB Link Limited has no intention of including a converter station in this planning application. The progression of a converter station in Alderney will be taken forward separately and will be subject to due planning processes on Alderney at a later date.
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