Private firm pushes ahead with UK-France power cable despite Brexit

PARIS (Reuters) - Private investment firm Aquind is pushing ahead with plans to build a 1.4 billion euro (1.22 billion pounds) high-voltage undersea power cable between Britain and France despite uncertainties created by Brexit, its managing director said on Tuesday.

Kirill Glukhovskoy told Reuters the project was in the process of obtaining planning permits and marine domain authorisations from both countries, and still due to complete in 2022.

He said a decision by French energy market regulator CRE in December to refer Aquind’s request for exemption to the EU Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER) would not affect the 2,000 megawatt project.

Under EU regulations, revenues generated by power transmission operators must be used to guarantee availability and reinvested to increase interconnection capacity.

Glukhovskoy said that, as a private operator, Aquind, which is based in Britain, was seeking the exemption so as to use profits to repay investors.

The company had said it would continue to work with CRE and British regulator Ofgem, as well as ACER and the European Commission, for a positive and timely decision.

CRE said in December that Aquind had approached it and Britain’s Ofgem to request the exemption on grounds that the project would benefit the European community.

However, the French regulator said the consequences of Brexit on the energy markets and in particular on the rules of access and interconnections between Britain and the continent could not be anticipated, and so referred the matter to ACER.

“Our analysis has shown that Brexit underscored the need for such transmission facilities,” Glukhovskoy said in an interview.

He said the project was being funded by sponsors in the development stage, but would raise more money through equity or debt and bring in more partners in the implementation phase.

Britain is currently linked to France through the 2,000 MW IFA high voltage link, owned by French state network operator RTE and Britain’s National Grid. Another link IFA2, is under construction and expected to be complete by 2020.

Glukhovskoy said Aquind’s cable and three other planned private power cables across the Channel were responding to demand for power interconnectors, and would increase competition in the power market and improve security of supply.

“What we see clearly is that the asset will be used very well,” he said.

($1 = 0.8143 euros)

Reporting by Bate Felix; Editing by Kevin Liffey