Parliamentary Committees and Public Enquiries
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Committee publishes findings on 'European Supergrid'
Connecting the UK's electricity system with neighbouring countries via a new European 'supergrid' would allow the National Grid to balance supply and demand more effectively, as intermittent sources of electricity become more important in our energy mix - according to a report by the Commons Energy and Climate Change Select Committee.
The cost of developing such a supergrid could be very high, the report warns. But it may bring a host of economic benefits - including tens of thousands of new jobs in the offshore renewable industry - and could allow the UK to become a net exporter of energy. It would also deliver a 25% capital cost saving on connecting each new offshore wind or marine energy farm compared to connecting each site individually.
Tim Yeo MP, Chair of the Energy and Climate Change Committee said:
"The UK’s electricity system is the least interconnected of all European Countries – but we also have vast offshore resources of renewable energy.
In fact, we potentially have enough wind, wave and tidal energy to more than match our North Sea oil and Gas production and transform the country from a net energy importer to a net energy exporter.
If we continue developing these renewable resources site-by-site it could be prohibitively expensive with large individual connections for each power plant.
Developing an integrated and interconnected offshore network would allow us to tap these huge resources cost-efficiently and prepare the ground for a future European Supergrid – if it is necessary and feasible in future."
A European supergrid would enable the National Grid to balance supply and demand using foreign electricity sources as well as UK ones. This will become increasingly necessary as polluting yet flexible fossil fuel generation is phased out, in favour of clean but intermittent sources of renewable energy.
The committee also argues that an offshore network could provide vital support to our aging onshore grid and found that coordinating offshore networks could reduce the impact of new transmission on the landscape.
Between 80 and 280 wind farms are likely to be constructed in the North Sea in the next twenty years. The cost and size of these new assets would be prohibitive if single connections to the shore were made, according to the report.
The committee suggests that offshore connections are developing in a haphazard way and need more coordination from Government if it is to achieve its ambitious plans for offshore wind. The committee urges the Government to adopt the advice of the committee on Climate Change and provide certainty to investors by making a firm commitments to support offshore wind and marine generation through the 2020s in order to create the confidence necessary for anticipatory investment from the private sector.
Tim Yeo MP said:
"At the moment, we are paying some generators to switch off because we haven't got the wires to deliver electricity from where it is produced to where it is needed. An offshore grid can relieve some of this pressure.
Offshore networks can deliver electricity where it's needed without adding to the advancing army of pylons that’s marching its way across our countryside.
If we connect our offshore wind farms one by one then we'll see scores of landing points, each twice the size of a football pitch. The Government needs to help industry to cooperate and share their networks.
The UK's offshore renewables are too valuable to be left to the Government’s hands-off approach on transmission."