Elia is responsible to connect offshore wind projects in the German part of the Baltic Sea area and has jurisdiction over the Belgian part of the North Sea, although is not legally obliged to connect offshore wind farms.
In Germany, Transpower (Tennet) and 50Hertz (Elia) are responsible for connecting up the offshore wind farms in the North and Baltic Sea. They will as a result also need to finance the grid connection, but also risk planning insecurities to connect the projects in time given the high level of complexity and equipment bottlenecks.
According to Recharge, the German ministries of environment and economics “preliminary” agreed to implement a shared liability for offshore grid links. This happens just days before the German parliament leaves for its summer recess. Under the proposed system, grid operators would beforced to pay project owners 90% of their lost revenue if transmission lines are delayed for more than 10 days, or if finished lines are out of service for more than 18 days in any given year. However, if projects are delayed beyond 90 days, and the transmission system operator (TSO) has taken “all possible and reasonable” measures to remedy the situation, the government would then bear much of the remaining financial liability. The government also proposed capping the liability of a TSO at € 100m for any one “occurrence” whether a delay or a line breakage.
Elia is also exploring the construction of a High Voltage (HV) island in the Belgian part of the North Sea in order to support the connection of four wind farms during the second half of the decade. Jacques Vandermeiren, CEO of Elia since 1 July 2012, expects an investment of ~€ 1.0bn would be required. The company is looking for investors who would be prepared to help finance this project.
Earlier this month, the Stevin project -designed to strengthen the onshore grid in West-Flanders and destined to connect future offshore wind projects and make an interconnection with the UK (project Nemo) - has takena major turn. Elia obtained a principal approval by Flemish Government to compensate home owners living under HV cables which should speed up the project. The file is submitted for advice to the Council of State.
The shared liability for offshore grid links in Germany is good news for 50Hertz since they cannot be asked to bear all the liabilities for making the offshore grid connections in time. This should eliminate a possible major overhang. The € 1.0bn HV-island in Belgium could furthermore act as an important growth driver for Elia in Belgium, if combined with adequate returns. We believe Elia only wants to commit to this type of higher risk project if it gets significant higher returns than it currently gets in Belgium. We understand that they are also looking for investors to co-finance the project.