IT’S FOR SUN, IT’S FOR WIND, IT’S SUPERGRID!
The European Supergrid, long debated by the European Union states, was formally proposed – a day before an EU summit meeting with Russia in France, a reopening of talks on economic and energy cooperation. Coincidental timing?
In the August confrontation over Georgia, the Russian Bear showed it will not hesitate to bare its teeth and claws when it wants dominance. Long uneasy with their dependence on Russia and the Middle East for the natural gas they use to power their grids, EU nations now see clearly they, too, can no longer hesitate but must lay plans to free themselves.
Supergrid will maximize the EU’s capability of drawing on its own and non-Russian power sources. It starts with 3 steps: (1) Connect the power generation of the wind-rich North Sea and Baltic Sea regions; (2)Link grids in the Mediterranean region in preparation for shifting supplies from the wind-rich areas as well as, eventually, from the sun-rich areas of North Africa and the Middle East; (3) Develop new pipelines to bring in natural gas from the Caspian region (without transiting Russia) and Africa.
The world's present economic circumstances make development of Supergrid less urgent because Russia needs so badly to sell its natural gas resources right now it is unlikely to use them as leverage in any strategic geopolitical gambit. On the other hand, present economic circumstances make the expansion of energy transmission infrastructure an ideal stimulus undertaking for the EU.
The EU commitment to Supergrid is also good news for New Energy developers. Aside from relieving reliance on Russia for energy, the capacity to move wind- (or sun-)generated electricity around the continent means larger volumes can be delivered from where the wind is blowing (or where the sun is shining) and put to use where there is demand. Wind sources will thereby be everywhere more reliable.
Nick Medic, spokesman, British Wind Energy Association: “The proposed North Sea grid means that if you have less wind in the British sector, you can access wind blowing off the German coast.”
Who's for a North American Supergrid?
Initially, Supergrid will move offshore wind-generated electricity all around Europe. (click to enlarge)
Power supergrid plan to protect Europe from Russian threat to choke off energy
David Charter, November 13, 2008 (UK Times)
The European Commission (EC) of the European Union (EU)
Now unequivocally aware of the need to escape dependence on Russian and Middle Eastern energy supplies, the EC’s Second Strategic Energy Review proposes Supergrid and a series of other measures to create a more secure energy supply.
click to enlarge
- In the winter of 2005-06 Russia cut gas supplies to Eastern European satellite nations, giving the first hint of their inclination to bully those who were dependent.
- Supergrid was announced November 13 after years of discussions and proposals.
- The proposals compliment the EU’s triple 20 targets of a 20% cut in greenhouse gas emissions, a 20% increase in energy efficiency and obtaining 20% of its power from New Energy sources by 2020.
- The confrontation w/Russia over Georgia in August
- Supergrid will ultimately link all EU states.
- The plan also calls for gas pipelines to Central Asia and Africa, a southern corridor pipeline to the Caspian region and a trans-Saharan pipe for gas from nations like Nigeria.
- New, high voltage transmission will link the wind-rich North Sea/Baltic Sea nations from the UK to Scandinavia and including the Netherlands, Germany, Norway and Eastern Europe. New transmission will also link EU Mediterranean nations and prepare them to transmit solar energy-generated electricity from North Africa and the Middle East.
- Norway and Holland recently agreed to connect via an undersea cable so as to exchange Norway’s hydropower and Holland’s complimentary wind.
- The defensive reason for the plan is Russia’s inclination to use energy as a lever.
- There is also a general economic uncertainty to energy imports.
- Europe imports 61% of its natural gas and without a change will import 73% by 2020.
- Russia sells Europe 40% of that, including the entire supply of some EU states.
to protect Europe’s energy from the threat of a Russian stranglehold
- Gazprom, Russia’s national energy company, is already negotiating to buy up the natural gas supplies of the Caspian and African countries to which the EU would build its pipelines.
- The EU’s long-term goal: Energy security through reliance on wind, solar, biogas and mixed-source natural gas supplies.
- Analysts estimate the 2 gas pipelines will cost billions of pounds.
- An EU-wide network will mean that wind power’s intermittency is virtually irrelevant.
Eventually, Supergrid may carry solar energy-generated electrcity from N. Africa and the Middle East. (click to enlarge)
- European Commission document: “[Europe must take] the first steps to break the cycle of increasing energy consumption, increasing imports, and increasing outflow of wealth created in the EU to pay energy producers… With respect to the EU, this is of most concern with respect to gas, where a number of member states are overwhelmingly dependent on one single supplier. Political incidents in supplier or transit countries, accidents or natural disasters . . . remind the EU of the vulnerability of its immediate energy supply.”
- UK government spokeswoman: “We have been calling for the EU to do more on energy security. The idea of a supergrid could support the Government’s aim of developing offshore wind power and other renewables and implementing more interconnection between European electricity markets…”
- EC draft document: “This work appears as a key element of the EU response to the current financial crisis and thus should be accelerated…”