June 2010

SVU June 2010 Newsletter 

Distributed Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Getting rid of all of the pylons:-

Why UNDERSEA has to be the way to go.

But first the story so far....

National Grid's Bramford to Twinstead Overground Powerline Project:

Ding Ding, Round 2

Yes, "round 1" of the greatPylons Sagahas ended and having done a lot of research, Stour Valley Underground has responded fulsomely to National Grids proposals. Our written response comprised our arguments contesting the legitimacy of the consultation process, our rejecting the need to show any preference for any of their "route corridors" for yet more pylons and went further to provide electricity transmission methodologies that are in the whole Nation's best interests. We even provided a written response to a parallel consultation on the Government Policy Statements that govern decisions on the development of the grid. That was round 1.

Round 2 finds National Grid trying to legitimise the way in which they wholly avoided bringing any cabling strategies other than ones that blight the landscape with yet more pylons before the public through their "consultation events". Even the Government's planning quango, the IPC has told National Grid that the consultation is flawed and that they have to bring the sort of transmission strategies we have been advocating before the public. So at this point in time we are about to enter a period in which National Grid try to show the local Councils why they rejected any strategy other than the pylon ones and their key argument against them is that they deem them un-economic. But we have evidence that shows they are wrong. If you only look at the up front cost of under sea or underground cables the numbers look very big. But then the equipment the money will be spent on will last a very long time - perhaps half a century, and if you look at the additional cost per household across the lifetime of said equipment, the burden to the average electricity user looks more like a drop in the ocean - less that say £10 per year. So to put the cost into perspective, we are talking the price of 3 pints of bitter in the local pub, per year. So small a price for a pylon free landscape - sounds like a bargain!

But all this arguing about whateconomicmeans and arguing aboutwhereto put pylons should in reality be cast aside so that we can get on with thinking about and embracing the future, thinking about building a grid that will lead to a greener, cleaner, renewable energy future that almost as a side effect, rids the landscape of pylons. To understand this idea I first need to explain that we live on the cusp of an enormous change in the way energy is generated and distributed. We are moving toward a low carbon energy future and that means we have to stop burning things to make electricity. And this move will bring with it the need to change the sort of electricity grid we have. Even the Chief Executive of National Grid has said so.

So I am talking major, major change. To this add the facts that currently:-

•the Government is changing its policies on electricity generation and distribution,

•the Government is getting rid of the planning quango, the IPC and setting up a new Major Infrastructure Unit (MIU) to deal with this sort of planning application

•In the future the Coalition is committed to completely reorganising the planning regime

•the regulators (OFGEM) are changing the regulation regime that controls investment in the grid and how much profit NG can make from it

•the commissioning dates for the new nuclear generators on the east coast have been put back at least half a decade

•the rules for how much redundancy is built into the grid will probably be relaxed as OFGEM conduct a review of"transmission Security and Quality of Supply Standards" (SQSS)Note:"redundancy" means how much of the grid can break down before we get blackouts!

•European grid developments have already started and even national Grid have started implementing a new grid technology and strategy for the whole continent

By now you probably realise that we are arguing a case for not blighting the countryside with pylons in an environment where everything relating to this issue is in a state of flux. You could almost be forgiven for thinking that the only fixed thing in all of this issue is National Grid's intransigent desire to inflict on our countryside more ugly pylons.

Oh, and I should explain the importance of the "redundancy" thing I mentioned above. Although National Grid based their pitch to you for why they need to inflict more pylons on our countryside on the demand from generating companies to have their new power stations connected, they have subsequently tried to impress upon us their need to comply with an OFGEM requirement that the grid will continue to function with two circuits interrupted. They call it N-2. For OFGEM, N-2 is a rule they want to relax. No N-2 means one less reason to build more power lines. Add to this the new Government's commitment (more on this below) to connect the coming east coast windfarms to the European Grid by undersea grid technology and the need for more pylons just evaporated!

So what are we arguing for?

Put simply, an undersea electricity transmission grid, and we have fleshed this idea out on the SVU website (The UK Ring Main)

Now you might well ask us, "what on earth makes you think this is at all likely?" That is a very reasonable question and so here is the answer:-

Undersea electricity transmission grids are a necessary part of making renewable energy generation work securely and they are building a grid under the North Sea right now.The UK grid is already connected to France by one. The UK-Holland grid link is nearly up and running and a whole lot more are in the pipeline. National Grid are building an undersea grid on the other side of the country linking England to Scotland. So we are suggesting nothing original, nothing new, nothing that is not already happening.

Making what we are suggesting even more likely are the following facts:-

•There is huge European Union commitment to the North Sea Grid which is being developed right now

•Match Funding for the development of the above will come from the EU

•The new coalition government has committed in its very recent "The Coalition:our programme for government"document to constructing an undersea electricity grid

•There is strong commitment amongst the Germans (Europe's most powerful and influential economy) to making all of this happen

•The move to renewable energy demands a Europe wide grid for energy security

•The UK has the potential to produce 1/3 of Europe's wind generated energy ( 3 times the UK's requirements!) making the UK a major net energy exporter bringing huge financial and security benefits.

That last fact is important: we are suggesting a strategy that will maximise the earnings potential of the UK as an net electricity exporter - an undersea grid will EARN us money.

To understand just how bonkers the National Grid pylon proposal really is, consider this:- To bring the energy from the east coast to London overland will surely lead to yet more pylon lines (in addition to those proposed) in East Anglia in the future. So if you don't get some pylons in this project, you might just get your own in the next. But where is the electricity going? Well some of it to London for sure. But a huge amount will then have to be taken back to the coast in order to feed it into the European UNDERSEA GRID! Surely, the smart option is to keep the energy flowing in cables under the sea and only bring ashore what we need in these islands?

To put it in a nutshell, we are proposing that all of the coastally based generators are connected undersea, by cables running down the coast as part of the North Sea Grid which forms the western part of the Europe wide grid. Our "UK Ring Main" as outlined on the SVU website is just part of that greater entity.Further, we propose that the Government formally adopt a policy of setting a target for the total replacement of the on-land transmission grid with a smart grid compatible undersea one by say 2040. This, together with other existing commitments that you will find in the Coalition Governments Programme document mentioned above, will lead to a greener, more energy secure and prosperous future for the UK. It will also rid our beloved landscape of the blight of pylons forever.What a wonderfully responsible legacy to leave our children.

Further reading... for those who want it:-

The document,The Coalition:our programme for government (see section 10) is available

Our UK Ring Main ideas are to be found along with much more on the SVU website

More on thetransmission Security and Quality of Supply Standards" (SQSS) on the OFGEM site