Claverton Energy Group view on European Supergrid HVDC interconnector
This note will shortly go out to press and other invitees re the presentation at House of Commons – please read and comment.
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A significant number of Claverton Energy Group members acknowledge Britain could have energy security and a fully sustainable clean supply of affordable electricity within 30 years (15 years with a crash program) by embracing the European Supergrid (akin to the UK national grid but on a larger scale, linking up Europe, Scandinavia, Iceland, Central Europe, the Ukraine, and north Africa). However, the group is worried that UK energy companies acting without government instruction will be unable and even reluctant to implement it. The 320 strong independent group of energy experts, including a number who wish to remain anonymous because of their positions within the big 6 energy companies, is calling on the government to intervene now to avoid an unregulated energy industry making the kinds of mistakes that were made by an unregulated banking industry.
Claverton spokesperson, Dave Andrews, says: “We only have to look back at the construction of the UK National Grid, where up till 1927, before Lord Weir’s report, there were many local, disconnected power stations operating independently and highly inefficiently. The UK grid was constructed in less than 10 years, by government fiat, and at the same time the whole of Europe was doing the same thing. Once constructed in the UK, it meant that selecting the most efficient power stations and sharing the standby/spinning reserve capacity that previously had to be provided by each local power company, was possible allowing the load to be met much more efficiently with less power stations. This resulted in a dramatic reduction in the cost of power, because in total far less spinning reserve was required, and only the largest most efficient power stations would operate with many smaller, inefficient stations becoming redundant. This lead to a dramatic fall in the price of power, resulting in less money (and profit) handed over to the old power companies.
This is one of the reasons that the big 6 energy companies are not supportive of a European Supergrid – it would mean that their least efficient power stations in the European mix would become obsolete, as would a lot of their spinning reserve. This means they would sell less power station fuel as electricity, and their job is to sell as much fuel via electricity as possible on their shareholders behalf.
A lot of the framework for the European Supergrid exists already. For instance, Norwegian hydro was recently connected to Holland via the Nor Ned link and has been supplying energy to Germany for 30 years. The UK has been connected to France for 20 years. Finland has been connected to Russia for many years. Thus Europe is already widely interconnected – all that is required is a multiplication of existing proven HVDC technology.
Only a few percent of Britain’s electricity is generated by renewables. This failure is the result of the UK lacking an energy policy in favour of a “leave it to the market” philosophy. It does not take much study and thought to realise that leaving infrastructure planning for electricity supply investment solely to market forces will always leave a situation of incipient capacity shortage, because it guarantees scarcity value for the incumbents, and furthermore the big players have no interest in investing in order to sell less power. The fact we have only 1% wind energy and Denmark has 20%, and that we have virtually no CHP District heating, compared to Denmark’s’ 90% coverage, points out the UK’s hopeless lack of energy planning and policy making and the failure of the market to move us in this direction.
Britain’s renewable energy industry is in crisis. This is because the government has no reliable body of technically experienced people (Unlike say the French Institue des Mineurs) in place to give it unbiased technical advice. Instead the government is relying on energy companies to lead the way via “market forces”, and the energy companies for whatever reasons have failed. UK civil servants are unfortunately not technically trained and the policy of switching them around means there is no accumulated body of technical knowledge and consistency.”
On June 18 Dr Czisch of the University of Kassel, Germany, who is the father of the European Supergrid, Dr Mark Barrett of University College London, and representatives of the Claverton Energy Group will be attending the House of Commons to present the European Supergrid to members of parliament and guests.
As recently reported in the New Scientist “Dr Gregor Czisch, an energy system consultant, made the first quantitative study of how to build an economically viable, wholly renewable electricity supply for Europe and its neighbours. To do this, Czisch used a technique called linear optimisation, originally developed to solve complicated logistical problems in industry and commerce. It took Czisch years to gather the necessary information, including detailed hour by hour weather and electricity consumption data for the whole area and investment costs for the main renewable technologies.
Czisch then plugged this data into a program to devise the cheapest electricity supply system that could satisfy demand entirely from renewables. It runs over a whole year simulating total European demand patterns and real weather data every 3 hours. He allowed it to decide which forms of generation should be sited where, as well as plan the routes and capacity of the HVDC lines. The results were astonishing. Not only could the electricity demand of more than a billion people be supplied solely from renewables throughout the year, it wouldn’t break the bank.
The numbers look daunting: the project would cost more than €1.5 trillion, of which €128 billion would go on the lines and equipment for the supergrid itself, and around €1.4 trillion on renewable-generating capacity. To put this in context, the International Energy Agency forecasts that the global power industry will have to invest $13.6 trillion on fossil-fuel-based power generation by 2030. Under Czisch’s plan, investment in clean technologies would displace spending on dirty ones so costs would not escalate.
Critically it should be understood that all fossil fuel stations will require the import of increasing scarce and very expensive fossil fuels – costing many $trillions of dollars per year. The cost of the supergrid and the associated renewables will mean that its capital cost is repaid over a number of years due to savings on the costs of fossil fuel imports.
It is important to start building the grid now, before the renewables, since each line takes about 10 years mainly due to due to planning, but the renewables only about 3 years to construct.
One of the advantages of the supergrid is that renewables can be sited where wind and sunlight are best for generating electricity, which will bring economic efficiencies as well as electrical ones. What’s more, the supergrid itself represents only a small proportion of the total investment, so the extra cost of the grid makes little difference to the overall price of electricity. Czisch calculates the system could deliver electricity for less than 4.7 euro cents per kilowatt-hour – roughly the price of German wholesale electricity in 2005.”
Irrespective of any renewables capacity whitch may be added, the grid should be built, because in the same way that the UK national grid enabled existing technology power stations to be operated more efficiently, so to will the supergrid. Thus the grid is needed in its own right irrespective of any renewables, but once built, will enable a totally renewable power system.