Construction work has begun this week on the new £1 billion grid link between Hunterston in Ayrshire and Connah’s Quay in Wales. This marks the commencement of what is expected to be the first of several major grid upgrade projects which are to be carried out across the UK.
The 260 mile (418 kilometer) long undersea electricity transmission line is expected to be fully operational by 2016. The project will directly support 450 jobs during the construction period. This is a joint venture between Scottish Power and the National Grid. The new link, the first sub-sea link between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom, could increase the capacity of electricity moving between Scotland and England by 2,000 megawatts. This represents enough electricity to power more than 4 million British homes.
The inter-connector, known as the Western Link HVDC (high-voltage direct-current) project is intended to open up the potential for Scottish wind energy to be supplied to areas of high population density, high-energy demand and low renewable generation potential found over the border. Such a move not only creates a bigger market and more demand for Scottish wind power but it also helps both the UK and Scotland meet their renewable energy targets. A similar project is being planned for the East Coast.
Announcing the commencement of construction Scottish Power’s chairman Ignacio Galan commented:
“We are pleased to mark the start of construction on this hugely ambitious sub-sea electricity connection project.
“Our engineers are currently delivering some of the most important upgrades to the electricity network for more than half a century, with billions of pounds being invested and thousands of jobs being supported and created.
“The Western Link project will act as a benchmark for similar developments around the world, as the deployment of this technology at such a large scale has never been undertaken before.
“This will help to increase energy security across the UK, and will benefit the people of Scotland, England and Wales.”
UK Energy Minister Michael Fallon also stated:
“The western link is a perfect symbol of the single energy market, of which Scotland is part. It will enable English and Welsh consumers to access Scottish renewables and enable Scots to benefit from base load power when the wind doesn’t blow. This world leading, billion pound under-sea connector shows the strength of our current integrated system.”
The Western Link project is a part of Scottish Power Energy Network’s wider £2.6 billion investment plans for their transmission network covering the 8-year period from 2013 to 2021. The plans are intended to deliver the following; direct creation of up 1,500 new jobs, facilitation of offshore and onshore wind generation in Scotland of around 11 GW (enough to power over 6 million British homes), reduced carbon emissions of 45 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, replacement of over 800 km of overhead power lines and an increase in export capacity from Scotland to England of nearly 4 gigawatts. Such an ambitious investment program demonstrates both the potential of Scotland’s renewable energy resources and the commitment to realizing them.
In other news this week, data published this week by Eurostat (the European Union’s statistics office) revealed that renewable energy met 14.1% of total energy demand within the European Union in 2012 (these are the most recent figures available). This represents an increase of 5.8% compared to 2004 when renewable energy met 8.3% of the Union’s total energy demand.
During this time every single member state of the Union has increased their renewable energy capacity. Perhaps somewhat startlingly, several member states have already reached and went beyond their binding 2020 renewable energy targets.
Sweden, Austria and Denmark were the three countries which underwent the largest growth in renewable energy capacity between 2004 and 2012. Sweden, which in 2004 derived 38.7% of its power from renewables, lifted that to 51% in 2012. In Denmark, the share of renewables rose from 14.5% to 26%, while in Austria it jumped from 22.7% to 32.1%. Three countries have already met their individual 2020 targets; Bulgaria, Estonia and Sweden. These three countries had 2020 goals of 16%, 25% and 49%, respectively. At the end of 2012 they had achieved respective renewable energy shares of 16.3%, 25.2% and 51%. Of course it should be re-iterated at this point that the figures published by Eurostat do not cover the year 2013 – a period of remarkable growth in UK renewable energy capacity, particularly wind generation capacity. It should also be remembered that several countries, particularly Sweden, started with far, far higher initial renewable energy capacities than the UK due to abundant hydro-generation resources.
We at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) are delighted to see ambitious and extensive upgrades being carried out to the electricity transmission network, particularly given our own efforts in this field. Such work not only improves the country’s infrastructure but also allows Scotland’s renewable energy potential (the envy of Europe in this regard) to be fully realized. Long range energy transmission also serves to reduce instances of renewable energy generation technology having to be turned off at times of low demand. Finally it helps to further reduce the United Kingdom’s reliance upon fossil fuel imports at a time when the vulnerability of such markets could not be clearer.