The European Investment Bank (EIB) and Belgian high-voltage grid operator Elia concluded on July 4 a 7-year loan agreement for €100 million to finance the Stevin project, which includes bringing ashore the wind energy produced at sea and the optimal integration of the future energy-exchange with the UK (Nemo project) in the Belgian electricity network.

According to the EIB, these two projects enable both the integration of large quantities of renewable energy and an integrated European electricity system and thus support the reliability of the Belgian electricity system.

The Stevin project shall, among other things, enable the integration of large quantities of offshore wind energy thanks to a double 380 kV line that runs via Zeebrugge to Zomergem (47 kilometres) and distributes the generated electricity across the Belgian electricity network. The construction is in its final stage, as the infrastructure is currently being tested and will be put into service at the end of 2017. The Nemo-link project shall also connect to the Stevin route; it is the first interconnector with Great Britain, which is being built in collaboration with the British transmission operator National Grid.

EIB Vice President for Belgium Pim van Ballekom noted that since 2009, the EIB has invested more than €2 billion in renewable energy in Belgium, for example in the recently completed Nobelwind wind park near Oostende. “It is important that this energy is transmitted as efficiently as possible to the national network and that is what this loan is all about,” van Ballekom said.

Elia CFO Catherine Vandenborre noted that the energy transition means that more and more thermal power-plants that emit CO2 are replaced by wind and solar energy. “We consequently need more transport capacity to bring renewable energy to the consumer. Stevin will as well enable the interconnection with the UK, which gives Belgium an even more central role in the European energy system,” she said.

The Bank said the project emphasises two important priorities in the EIB investment policy: the importance of renewable energy and the certainty of the electricity provision in the region. After the project is completed, offshore wind energy will be better integrated into the Belgium energy supply and via the connection with the UK, surplus production can be better traded from 2019 onwards, the EIB said.