National Grid plans UK-Norway interconnector

7 October 2009 - UK TSO National Grid has agreed with its Norwegian counterpart Statnett to draw up proposals for a grid interconnector that could cost around GBP1bn ($1.6bn).

Under the preliminary agreement, the two grid operators would each hold a 50 per cent stake in the project, after feasibility studies suggested that the cable would be economically and technically viable.

A cable link-up could help solve the problem of wind power intermittency, where Norwegian hydropower could act as back-up for the UK in return for electricity on windy days.

"Greater interconnection with Europe will be an important tool to help us balance the system with large quantities of variable wind generation in the UK," said Nick Winser, director for transmission at National Grid.

Britain already has a connection with France and there is a link under construction with the Netherlands. France was forced to import UK electricity earlier this year when low river water caused 14 of its nuclear power stations to grind to a halt.

Britain's wind capacity currently stands at around 4 per cent, but London is relying on a huge increase in new plants to meet its target of obtaining 15 per cent of energy from renewable sources by 2020.

However, wind farms tend to need back-up power stations for calm days and many of Britain's coal fired and nuclear plants are due to retire with the next decade.

National Grid has not decided where the cable would link to, the Scottish or English east coast, but Statnett is hoping to join it to the Norwegian grid at Kvilldal in Rogaland.

A similar proposal that did not involve connections en-route to wind farms or drilling platforms stalled some years ago when it did not get regulatory approval in Norway.

Both operators must now work out the best financial and regulatory model for the project, followed by a formal planning and licence application, then a final investment decision.

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