Elia to seek external backers for Belgian grid upgrade

€3bn to be invested over 10 years to support offshore wind

About one third of the €3bn investment needed to upgrade Belgium’s electricity transmission network, so that it can accommodate offshore wind-generated power, can be funded by the country’s electricity transmission operator, Elia. The remaining two-thirds will have to come from external sources.

How the company will raise the necessary funds has not yet been decided, an Elia spokesperson told Windpower Offshore. One option could be to create an offshore grid subsidiary, in which external players would take a stake. Another option could be a share offer.

Belgium’s government appears to have mirrored the German approach and has extended Elia’s responsibilities to include construction and maintenance of offshore cabling and related infrastructure. Elia has also identified a series of onshore upgrades needed to ensure transmission beyond Belgium's borders of offshore-generated electricity.

It is unclear whether – and to what extent – Belgian energy consumers will be asked to fund wind energy-related grid enhancements. UK and German consumers are shouldering some of the burden for grid improvements, which are partially driven by the need to ensure integration of offshore wind-generated electricity.

The cost of modernising Elia’s network will be substantial, but the investment represents a true instance of sustainable development, as well as technological innovation and job creation, said the spokesperson. In 2011, Elia’s Belgian business recorded revenues of €801.8m and an operating profit (EBIT) of €251.7m, figures indicative of strong profitability.

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