Politicians plan to co-operate to exploit renewables

Posted on 21 Jun 2011 by The Manufacturer

Politicians from the British Isles, Ireland and the Channel Islands have agreed to combine their efforts to invest in the abundant tidal and wind energy resources around their coastlines.

The British Isles has the benefit of a relatively large exposure to wind and tides, with many studies carried out in the UK and abroad advocating investment in order to take advantage of such exposure.

Yesterday (Monday), Ministers from all the above mentioned regions and countries attended the British Irish Council in London to discuss how to exploit commercial opportunities for generation and transmission, facilitate the cost-effective exploitation of the renewable energy resources available and increase integration of our markets and improve security of supply.

Charles Hendry, UK Minister of State for Energy said: “There is a massive potential source of clean, green, secure energy that remains untapped in the Irish Sea and onshore in Ireland, as well as around the Channel Islands. But because Ireland’s energy demand is only slightly larger than that of Yorkshire and Humberside, there has been little incentive to exploit the resource.”

“Optimising the natural renewable resource available around our islands would benefit us all. It makes much more sense to develop and share clean, green, secure energy with our neighbours than import vast amounts of fossil fuels from far flung parts of the world,” he added.

Professor Minoo Patel of Cranfield University published a report for the The Oil, Petrochemical and Energy Risks Association (OPERA) that stated the government is already moving forward relatively quickly with licensing large offshore areas for multiple wind farm developments. The offshore wind farms are attracting substantial investments with the attendant risks and opportunities.

In parallel with wind power, there are very many wave and tidal power devices and schemes in various stages of development, ranging from devices in the water producing power already, through to recent inventions that have not had much technical development or commercial evaluation.

Professor Patel argued that as the technology develops, attention is inevitably focused on their commercial performance with competitive pricing, investment levels and revenue streams becoming more important.

The Guardian published a report in April this year that reported on 260km of undersea high voltage cable running underneath the North Sea, linking the UK with the Netherlands. The cable costs £500m and has been called the ‘BritNed’ cable.

Writing for the Guardian, Damian Carrington said that the cable could represent the first step towards “a renewable energy revolution based on a European electricity ‘supergrid’”. Carrington highlights the fact that High voltage DC (HVDC) cables allow electricity to be transmitted over much greater distances than existing alternating current lines, which start losing power after 80km.

Even more exciting was a (markedly less advanced) plan to build a similar cable capable of transmitting surplus geothermal energy all the way from Iceland to the UK. In February this year, energy minister Charles Hendry said discussions on the legal and regulatory issues posed by such a cable had taken place with the Icelandic government, and would continue. One major hurdle is that fact that the distance between Reykjavik and Glasgow is more than 1,300km – the longest existing subsea HVDC cable is 580km.

George Archer