Last week the Norwegian government announced that they have granted a licence for the world’s longest sub-sea electricity interconnector which is to be built between Norway and the UK.
Named NSN, this interconnector will unite the countries’ electricity supply systems providing benefits to both sides of the North Sea including improving both countries’ energy security plus supplying Norwegian renewable energy to power as much as four million UK homes.
As Norway is not a member of the European Union the supply of electricity from hydropower will count towards the UK’s EU target of providing at least 15% of energy to consumers from renewable sources by 2020.
Also a clause in the European directive that allows the UK a further two years beyond 2020 to increase the renewable energy it takes from non-EU countries will be triggered in order to comply with targets and prevent potential financial penalties.
Energy Secretary Ed Davey said: “This is excellent news for both the UK and Norway. This new cable will allow the UK to import huge amounts of clean green hydroelectricity – enough to power up to 4 million homes – to back up our wind and solar power.
“This bolsters our energy security and will help keep consumers’ bills down. It’s a massive win-win for consumers and the climate.”
The project is expected to reach its final investment level by spring 2015 after which construction can begin although at present no timescales for concluding the development have been given.
Five new interconnector projects recently applied to be assessed by Ofgem’s new regulatory regime for interconnector investment including NSN. Further decisions on the others are expected later this year.
Although we are delighted that this projected is going ahead and that the UK will be using more clean renewable energy to power its homes and businesses there is a concern that the UK government may see this as an opportunity to use instead of our own renewable operations rather than as well as. We have a wealth of resources which can be used for renewable energy in the UK so although the clean energy transmitted from Norway is welcome we want the UK to be in a position where we can export our renewable energy surplus to our neighbours.
To achieve this we have to invest more in infrastructure and increase the amount of renewable energy we are generating. With the renewable energy resources we have in the UK we are in an enviable position however if we do not act on it we will be passing on an opportunity, the like of which we may never see again.
Not only does this make environmental sense but also financial. A new study of energy generation by Ecofys and approved by the European Commission has stated that electricity generated from onshore wind is cheaper than energy from gas, coal, and nuclear power stations.
Analysis of the report suggests that onshore wind has an approximate cost of £80 per mega watt (MW). This brings it in below gas at £130 per MW, nuclear at £105 per MW and coal at between £128 per MW and £184 per MW.
Offshore wind’s cost is £147 per MW and solar the highest at £171 per MW.
EWEA deputy chief executive Justin Wilkes said: “This report highlights the true cost of Europe’s dependence on fossil fuels. Renewables are regularly denigrated for being too expensive and a drain on the taxpayer. Not only does the Commission’s report show the alarming cost of coal but it also presents onshore wind as both cheaper and more environmentally-friendly.”
The report also confirms that both onshore and offshore wind technologies have the potential for cost decrease compared with coal, which is unlikely to reduce costs any further.
Wilkes added: “We are heavily subsidising the dirtiest form of electricity generation while proponents use coal’s supposed affordability as a justification for its continued use. The irony is that coal is the most expensive form of energy in the European Union. This report shows that we should use the 2030 climate and energy package as a foundation for increasing the use of wind energy in Europe to improve our competitiveness, security and environment.”
As technology advances to become more reliable and effective it should be no surprise that the cost of onshore wind has now come down to be the cheapest form of energy production in the European Union. However the rate at which it has demonstrates that with continued investment and dedicated people working throughout the region the targets we have set can be achieved within a realistic budget.
Energy will always be a requirement of any society and clean energy production is the best way to sustain an environment fitting of any such society. As the amount energy generated by onshore wind continues to increase and the cost of this energy continues to fall the consumers will reap the benefits of this energy production both environmentally and financially.