Engineering and design work on the first electricity interconnector between Belgium and the UK is set to begin in 2015 after the two countries’ network operators signed a joint venture agreement.

The Nemo link will have a capacity of 1000 MW and will be the UK’s third with continental Europe. It is seen as an important part of plans to improve integration between Europe’s electricity markets and improve security of supply.

Steve Holliday, Chief Executive of National Grid said: "Interconnectors have an increasingly important role to play in making sure both countries have security of supply and in helping to lower wholesale prices for consumers. It’s a great achievement for the project to have reached this stage and I’m confident that everyone involved in the joint venture will work hard to deliver the interconnector by 2019."

Belgium in particular is currently suffering from tight supply margins because of the closure over the past few years of several gas-fired power stations and the unexpected shutdown of three nuclear reactors. Its supply situation is not expected to start improving until 2016.

Francois Cornelis, Chief Executive of Elia said: "Building high-capacity lines, interconnecting grids and fostering mutual Member States support are of utmost importance, not only to help Belgium reaching adequacy between generation and demand but also to make the electricity market competition a reality in Europe."

The link will run 140 km between Richborough on the Kent coast and Herdersbrug, near Zeebrugge with a combination of undersea and underground cables.

Belgium is also planning a new 1000 MW interconnector with Germany.