Norway’s subsea interconnectors
The following article is by Mr. Björgvin Skúli Sigurðsson. Mr. Sigurðsson is the Executive Vice President of Marketing and Business Development of Icelandic power company Landsvirkjun. The article was originally published in Icelandic, in the Icelandic newspaper Morgunblaðið. This translation into English is by Askja Energy Partners:
Norway’s subsea interconnectors
According to Norwegian energy policy, the resources are utilized to create maximum value for the country. Norwegians sell oil on the international market and with new subsea interconnectors they are increasingly becoming important players at the European electricity markets.
The NorNed cable between Norway and the Netherlands is the world’ longest submarine interconnector, 580 km long. It started operating in 2008, after more than two years construction period. Today, four submarine electric cables link Norway and Denmark, the most recent one from last March (2015). Danes have constructed numerous wind parks and when the wind is not blowing in Denmark (thus limited electricity production) the links to Norway are used to transport hydropower between the countries.
Three submarine cables being planned
Norwegians now have three submarine cables under planning. The largest project is the NSN-cable between Norway and the United Kingdom (UK). It will be 700 km long, thus becoming the world’s longest subsea interconnector when it starts operating in 2020. The NordLink-cable between Norway and Germany will be 570 km. Like the NSN-cable, the NordLink is scheduled to become operational in 2020. The third project will be one more cable between Norway and UK, the NorthConnect. The Norwegian state-owned energy company Statkraft expects that other cable projects of similar size will take place before 2025.
Constructing subsea cables is a complex issue. For example, the NSN-cable will cross at least 14 gas pipelines which extend from drilling rigs in the North Sea. Also the cable route must take notice of the busy marine transports and fishing.
Electricity prices in Norway
Norwegian households are highly dependent on electricity, as most buildings have electric heating. In dry periods, when water in the Norwegian reservoirs is limited, the electricity price can be volatile. It may sound strange to some people, but the Norwegians have emphasized the importance of having subsea interconnectots to their neighbouring countries to keep electricity prices down, especially as a result of the high electricity prices during the drought of 2003. According to Norwegian authorities, electricity prices in Norway after 2008 would have been higher if the NorNed cable would not have come into operation.
Recently Denmark announced plans for a subsea link to the UK. The idea behind the project is to transport wind power from Denmark to the UK, and also use the interconnectors from Norway and Sweden to Denmark, to transfer the flexible Norwegian and Swedish hydropower through Denmark to the British electricity market.
The author is VP of Marketing and Business Development at the Icelandic power company Landsvirkjun.