Laid end to end, they could stretch from Land’s End to Manhattan. Their combined weight could tip the scales at more than half a million tonnes. And if they all get built as planned, they could deliver enough electricity to power more than 15 million British homes in the depths of winter. Chances are, you may not even have heard of an “interconnector”, the industry jargon for a cross-border power cable. Yet proposals for a dozen new links, snaking out under the seas around Britain to its European neighbours, could within a few years help to transform the electricity system. The energy sector is undergoing a period of dramatic change. Two thirds of existing power stations are due to close by 2030, to be replaced by low-carbon generators that are either inflexible, such as nuclear, or intermittent, such as wind and solar. That makes it harder to balance supply and demand and to avoid blackouts.The multibillion-pound plans for a dozen new projects that are now either under way or under consideration could more than quadruple that capacity. Transporting an extra 15.2 gigawatts of power, they would link the UK for the first time to countries including Germany, Norway and Iceland. However, doubts remain over quite how many of the 15.2GW of projects will go ahead. The government said that it supports “at least 9GW of additional interconnection capacity” and about half of that has made it past a final investment decision. The business case for interconnectors relies on the opportunity for trading between markets with different prices. The more connected Europe becomes, the more prices will converge. Mr Graves says that there could be a point of saturation for interconnectors. “It may well be not all of those projects materialise.” Then there is Brexit. Just as Britain seeks to build new physical links to Europe, it is preparing to sever political ties. It is not yet clear whether it will remain in Europe’s Internal Energy Market (IEM), which enables smooth, tariff-free cross-border trading. Professor Michael Grubb, an energy specialist at University College London, has warned that leaving the market could have a serious effect on investment.
Times 15th April 2017 read more »