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Feasibility of IceLink (Iceland-UK Interconnector)

The Icelandic Energy Portal is cooperating with the University of Iceland and Reykjavik University, as scientific and educational partners. Thus, we sometimes introduce research by university scholars and students. Today, we will focus on the findings in a recent thesis towards MSc in Sustainable Energy at Reykjavik University, by Mr. Randall Morgan Greene.

HR-RU-WelcomeThe title of the thesis is “Iceland-UK Interconnector: Strategy for Macroeconomic and Legal Feasibility”. According to the thesis, the UK must undertake drastic changes in their energy system if they are to achieve energy policy goals of competitive electricity prices, ensuring security of supply, and decarbonization of generation. Interconnection with Iceland, which is dominated by renewable energy, could offer an enticing, cost-competitive alternative to building new low-carbon generation in the UK and carries the potential for positive economic and technical benefits for both countries.

However, the author points out that the structure of EU and UK electricity systems and legislation places some blockades in this project attaining legal and macroeconomic feasibility. While there is some regulatory uncertainty associated with it, there is a potential that the status quo merchant interconnection investment model could be applied to the Iceland-UK in order to attain the aforementioned feasibility – especially if there is a potential for the application of the emerging legal precedent and business model framework in the Imera/ElecLink merchant interconnection exemption request (at this stage the concept of ElecLink seem to be advancing faster).

LV-HVDC-Iceland-UK-London-august-2012-1The macroeconomic feasibility of this framework could potentially be strengthened if there is a possibility to apply the UKs new Feed-in-Tariffs with Contract-for-Difference (FiT CfD) to generators in Iceland. The Imera/ElecLink framework adequately covers investor concerns over stable, long term returns while satisfactorily addressing regulator concerns over competition and third-party access rules for transmission assets. When combined with the FiT CfD program, there is a strong potential that this project can attain macroeconomic feasibility while still being feasible under EU energy legislation.

However, due to the ElecLink exemption not being due till spring 2014 and there being no clear precedent concerning the application of the UKs FiT CfD program to non-UK generators, this potential still requires more in-depth investigation. For more information, this link will take you to the whole text (pdf) of the thesis “Iceland-UK Interconnector: Strategy for Macroeconomic and Legal Feasibility”.

UK is Looking to Iceland for Electricity

In last March (2014), UK’s National Grid published a new paper exploring the potential benefits of greater electricity interconnection. According to the paper, new interconnectors will have positive economic and environmental effects. The benefits include lower energy prices for consumers, enhanced energy security, a cleaner environment and wider macro-economic effects. National Grid believes that a full understanding of the benefits of greater interconnection is important to inform the debate on an appropriate ambition to meet the country’s need, and the timeframe within which it should be achieved

UK_National-Grid-Interconnectors-fig4-march-2014The debate on how the United Kingdom (UK) can best meet its energy needs has intensified over recent months. There is broad agreement that energy should be affordable, greenhouse gas emissions need to be reduced, and energy supplies need to be reliable for businesses and consumers to facilitate the UK’s economic recovery. Despite these benefits, Britain’s 4 GW of existing interconnector capacity is relatively small; representing around 5%of total installed electricity generating capacity. This compares with the benchmark highlighted by the European Commission in January 2014 for all EU Member States to have a level of electricity interconnection equivalent to at least 10% of theirinstalled production capacity to realize the full benefits of the Internal Energy Market.

In order to reach this benchmark Britain would need to double its existing interconnector capacity.Britain is therefore poised to complete the final design elements of the new regulatory regime, enabling developers to secure the considerable capital required to deliver these complex and technically challenging projects. Through continuing to work together, the above stakeholders are now well placed to build on the successful momentum developed to date, to secure the necessary regulatory and investment decisions for a 4-5 GW portfolio of new links in 2014/2015 and unlock the benefits including a GBP 1 billion wholesale electricity price reduction per year by 2020.

UK_National-Grid-Interconnectors-fig3-march-2014As renewable electricity forms an increasing part of the energy mix, interconnection is becoming an important tool in managing the intermittent power flows associated with these sources. Based on the consumer, energy security, environmental and economic benefits which could be accessed, greater GB electricity interconnection is considered a ‘no regrets’ investment by a wide range of informed stakeholders within the UK and beyond. This consensus includes the UK Government, the regulator, consumer organizations, green groups, think tanks, academics and the main European Union institutions.

An interconnector between UK and Iceland (sometimes referred to as the IceLink) could become an important part of the additional interconnection. UK already has four interconnectors to France, Holland, Ireland, and Northern Ireland. These links, with a total capacity of 4 GW, represent around 5% of the existing electricity generation capacity in the UK. However, this level remains low compared to the 10% benchmark proposed by the EU Commission and there is strong consensus that this gap should be filled.

While GB remains a net importer of power, economic benefits are available through greater disposable income from lower domestic electricity prices, and enhanced competitiveness for businesses benefitting from reduced energy input costs. Were a portfolio of new projects to be commissioned, the economy would also benefit from new jobs created in activities such as planning, construction and maintenance. They could also catalyse new domestic manufacturing industries in areas such as sub-sea cabling.

Electric interconnectors allow low carbon electricity to flow between European countries more easily and could enable carbon and renewables targets to be met more cost effectively. Significant volumes of low carbon electricity could, for instance, be imported into UK from hydropower in Norway, wind power in Ireland and Denmark, nuclear in France and hydropower / geothermal energy in Iceland.

Copyright statement regarding the NG Paper: © National Grid Interconnector Holdings Limited 2014, all rights reserved.

New Electric Interconnector: Sweden-Germany

On March 27th 2014, plans for one more electric cable connecting the European mainland with the Nordic countries were revealed. The plans involve a new high voltage interconnector between Sweden and Germany. The interconnector is called Hansa PowerBridge.

Svenska-kraftnat-logoThis took place at the Annual Stakeholder Meeting of the Swedish National Grid (Svenska kraftnät) in Stockholm. The day after (March 28th 2014), Mr. Mikael Odenberg, CEO of Svenska kraftnät, and Mr. Boris Schucht, CEO the German Transmission System Operator 50Hertz, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) at the German Embassy in Stockholm. The signing was made in the presence of Mr. Rainer Baake, German State Secretary at the Ministry for Economics and Energy and Mr. Christian Pegel, Minister for Energy in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

50hertz-logoAccording to a press release from 50Hertz and Svenska kraftnät, the main objective under the MOU is to examine the feasibility for such a new link between Sweden and Germany. In a joint statement from the companies, such an interconnector is said to be another step towards a better integrated European grid and will allow for increased electricity trade between Germany and Sweden and contribute to the security of supply.

Such a new interconnector between Germany and Sweden is believed to make sense both from a commercial and from an environmental point of view. It links directly the huge storage potentials in Sweden to the wind electricity production centres in Northeastern Germany, thus creating value for both partners. The new interconnector is intended to be put into operation within the next decade. This is one more interesting project to have in mind, regarding the possible interconnector between Iceland and Europe.