IFA2, as seen from across the other side of the Channel
In order to build and operate IFA2, RTE and National Grid will set up a dedicated, jointly-owned subsidiary. Thanks to a unique operating framework, it will ensure full control over project progress, while sharing costs and risks. How does National Grid handle this close collaboration? This was the question asked during a meeting with David Luetchford, head of the IFA2 project at National Grid, the United Kingdom TSO.
What do you like best about major projects such as IFA2?
David Luetchford: On several occasions, I have been called upon to oversee significant projects, or projects that required international cooperation. I headed the London Power Tunnels Project managed by National Grid. This involved building 32 km of electricity superhighway deep underground, within a seven-year period, in order to meet our capital’s growing demand. I have also worked on building projects throughout the world. What I like best about this type of experience is discovering new cultures and learning new languages. I now speak Spanish, and hope that my French will improve!
What benefits do you expect IFA2 to deliver, given the energy situation in England?
DL: It will bring advantages to consumers of both countries through the sharing of different power generation mixes. This helps the end cost of electricity, it increases security of supply, and ultimately helps each country on their journey to a greener future.
Does England face any specific challenges in bringing the IFA2 project to a successful conclusion?
DL: Just as in France, one of the main challenges is to obtain the authorisations needed to complete the project. The south of England is a densely built-up area: it took us time to find a suitable site for a converter station, a site that was close to both the coastline and a 400kV substation. National Grid had to meet the needs of several stakeholders. Luckily, we had two assets: our recognised ability to truly collaborate with local players, and a deep respect for the environment.
What are the respective roles of RTE and the National Grid within the IFA2 project?
DL: With IFA2, we are two absolutely equal partners, without predefined roles. There will be only one construction team, bringing together top experts from both companies. We have simply decided that National Grid will take the lead with the subsea cables, in view of our recent experience with several projects of this type, while RTE will be at the forefront as regards the converters, given their strong engineering and design capabilities.
National Grid and RTE have a close relationship, and have been working together on IFA 2000 for a long time. How do their approaches and expertise differ or complement each other?
DL: The two companies are both strong financial and engineering performers. I would say that the National Grid has learned to exercise considerable flexibility, while granting real decision-making power to its management. On their side, the RTE teams demonstrate great professionalism and constantly strive for high standards.