British consumers could soon be lighting their homes and watching television powered by hydroelectricity generated in the fjords of Norway, under plans announced yesterday by National Grid.
The operator of the UK’s network of high-voltage wires said that it was in talks with Statnett, the Norwegian energy company, about laying a £1 billion cable beneath the North Sea to connect the countries. At more than 560 miles (900km), the high-voltage link from Kvilldal, Norway, to an unspecified point on English coast would be the longest of its kind in the world. It would have a capacity of about 1,000 megawatts, about the output of the Dungeness nuclear power station, according to a National Grid official. The companies have carried out a feasibility study and are selecting an optimal route.
As well as enabling Britain to import electricity from hydroelectric plants in Norway, the link would open the possibility of allowing the UK to export electricity generated from offshore wind farms in the North Sea to Norway. The Government hopes that the project will form the backbone of a “European supergrid”, linking different sources of renewable energy across the Continent.
Britain is committed to a vast expansion of onshore and offshore wind farms as part of its drive to generate about 30 per cent of electricity from renewables by 2020, up from 6 per cent. But if it succeeds, Britain will face big problems managing the inherent volatility of wind energy, when compared with the reliable output of conventional power stations.
At times of little wind, Britain would be forced to conserve power, generate electricity from gas or coal or import power to balance the grid.
Duncan Sinclair, director of Redpoint Energy, a consultancy that advises the Government, said: “More interconnectors like this are a good thing because, for a major electricity market, the UK is poorly linked in with other European countries. Being able to import electricity from Norway and other countries will play an important role in balancing the grid.”
The cable would be owned 50-50 by National Grid and Statnett.