I have been promoting the concept of a European Supergrid for the past decade in both my previous company, Airtricity and now again with my new venture, Mainstream Renewable Power. The Supergrid will connect Europe – it will be an integrated network system which will create security of supply in Europe and will reduce overall electricity costs to consumers. Already, we see the development of a Solar Supergrid in the Mediterranean – these grids will ultimately be linked to supply electricity across the EU.
Mainstream have been instrumental in bringing together significant European, and indeed many of them, world renowned companies to form a non-profit organisation, Friends of the Supergrid.
Supergrid is effectively defined as “an electricity transmission system, mainly based on direct current, designed to facilitate large-scale sustainable power generation in remote areas for transmission to centres of consumption, one of whose fundamental attributes will be the enhancement of the market in electricity.”
The supergrid concept provides an opportunity for integrated energy infrastructure for Europe. It brings together two proven technologies: offshore wind energy and High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) Transmission. These technologies enable the supergrid to provide two distinct functions:
1. It allows countries to trade their energy multilaterally.
2. It creates a vast energy resource which is both sustainable and indigenous to Europe.
Supernode is planned to comprise of HVDC cables linking the national grids of different countries, allowing them to trade their energy multilaterally.
Supernode could link together multiple offshore wind farms; for instance one in British waters and one in German waters, with a back-up connection from Norway.
Supernode can achieve three major policy objectives
1. Security of supply
Eurostat stated that 56% of the EU’s energy was imported in 2005, in contrast to 54% in 2004. Moreover, according to the European Commission’s baseline scenario, the import dependency for the EU-27 will have risen to 64% by 2030, with dependency on foreign oil reaching 94%, gas dependency increasing from around 50% to 84% and coal imports attaining 59%.
2. Sustainable energy supply
Europe will not have the fossil fuel resources to emerge as a winner in the battle for the world’s remaining and diminishing fuel supplies. But it does have enormously rich renewable energy resources.
3. International energy trading
Less than 10% of Europe’s energy is currently traded across borders. A key feature of Supernode is that it can provide interconnection between all the markets involved, creating a competitive internal trading market for all sources of electricity.
The scale and scope of the Supernode presents a range of new opportunities.
Gordon Brown has already noted that the North Sea could become the Saudi Arabia of wind. The Supernode concept is intended to complement and enhance the existing opportunities. Together, there is potential to create an industry bigger and more permanent than North Sea gas, including:
1. New employment
2. Considerable investment is needed to upgrade British and German marine ports to enable them meet the scale opportunity.
3. Marine vessel building and re-design. New types of marine vessel must be designed and constructed.
4. Long-term Operation and Maintenance industry.
5. Offshore turbine design and manufacturing. There is a massive opportunity for Britain and Germany to improve its long-term industrial employment and to design, test and build the next generation of offshore wind turbine. A wind turbine is a collection of raw materials. All world commodities are in short supply. Collectively, industry and government has to reduce the amount of materials required to make them.