On the Occasion of our First Birthday! 

SVU Newsletter for September 2010

Distributed Thursday, 23 September 2010

Key points this month.

•National Grid were saying that they aimed to announce a "Preferred Corridor" in October 2010 but this has been further delayed according to a letter posted to everyone in the consultation area 

•Campaigners oppose any such announcement before all of the questions raised by the groups and councils have been answered

•Developers of the vast new wind farm off the east coast announce that the connection to Bramford will be UNDERGROUND

•The future connection of new wind farms raises the possibility of yet more pylon lines according to Suffolk County Council and others.

•EDF Energy confirm that if National Grid choose corridor 2, they will hand over their 132kV line for the purpose

•An underground cabling technology exists that can cost less over its lifetime than lines on pylons according to a report produced for Wraxall & Failand Parish Council in Somerset. Called Gas Insulated Lines or GIL, it is produced by energy technology giant Siemens in Germany

•Campaigners respond to the Government's consultation on the energy regulatory body OFGEM to ensure that environmentally beneficial transmission technologies are given due consideration and that "public willingness to pay" and "environmental impact costing" figure when thinking about developing the transmission grid

•Suffolk County Council also respond to the OFGEM consultation with a powerful and well argued document

Hello and welcome to our September Newsletter,

Yes the pylons saga continues but I am not sure "celebrate" is the right word as we reach the first anniversary of the start of our campaign to protect our landscape from the blight of further pylons.

During the year we have hopefully kept you informed through our web site, public meetings and newsletters of the strides we have made. Extensive research has allowed us to look into many electricity transmission technologies that offer a more acceptable solution to reinforcing the grid than the tired, old and ugly pylons National Grid want to foist on us.

We started our year seeing ourselves as an underground movement that wanted to protect the landscape. Our name however lead most people to think we were advocating underground cabling. Having researched this possibility and looked at conventional ways in which it is achieved we concluded that it was just too expensive in all respects to be justified. We went on to discover that there were in fact much better ways to distribute the power that will in future be generated around our coasts, using undersea cabling. This is important because in future, our grid will be heavily connected to the European North Sea Grid and this is already being developed undersea, off our coasts. Put very simply, we discovered that the current grid is in the wrong place and is technologically wrong for our highly distributed renewably generated energy future. Undersea is the right place and as a by product, frees our beautiful landscape of the blight of pylons.

Now when we first proposed our undersea "UK Ring Main" and detailed it on our website we little suspected that the Government in the form of the Crown Estates (who own, amongst other things, the seabed around our shores) had already commissioned in depth research into linking the northern Scottish renewable energy generators to London by undersea grid. What amazed us last month when we discovered the research report was that the researchers had gone on to propose, design and cost the type of east coast undersea grid that we were advocating with its nodes to allow connection of the North Sea windfarms etc. The report was dated 2007 and they costed the total east coast grid all the way from the north of Scotland to London at under £5 Billion. This makes National Grids costing of £1.5 Billion for the short connection from Sizewell to Bradwell in Essex seem highly dubious. So for once, it is pleasing to find out that our ideas are not original, nor pie in the sky - someone thought of it before and the undersea grid is as they say "do-able" and has been researched by experts in the field.

At the end of our first year we have seemingly come full circle. Research now shows that there may well be an underground cabling technology that IS cost effective. Our attention was drawn to this by an expert paper prepared for one of the Somerset councils affected by another National Grid pylon proposal. The research showed that for the Nuclear power station connection that concerns them, Hinkley Point to Avonmouth, an underground solution would actually cost less when looked at across the whole life of the connection. Developed by Siemens in Germany, the technology is called Gas Insulated Lines or GIL for short. The beauty of this technology is that it can carry as much power as an overhead line and emits very little electromagnetic energy. The result is that it can be installed with the lines close together in shallow dug prefabricated concrete tunnels which have a much smaller footprint than either pylon lines or conventional direct buried cables. This technology, never shown to the public by National Grid in their "Consultation Events"seems highly applicable to the Bramford - Twinstead connection bringing huge environmental benefits and mostexciting of all is the fact that costed over its whole life, this highly reliable technology costs no more than power lines on pylons. National Grid deal with Siemens and know about GIL. So why was this possibilityneverbrought before you as an option?..... We are currently in contact with Siemens and will bring you news of the possibilities GIL offers us and what it would cost just as soon as we have fully researched the matter.

Our research has also brought into question the very need for the reinforcement National Grid are proposing and we have shown that upgrading the existing power lines and installing an inconspicuous switching station at the Twinstead Tee will provide all of the needed capacity until after 2020andimprove system security with no need for more pylons or an ugly sub station near the A131.

After many, many meetings including ones with our MP,National Grid and the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) we are still struggling to get written answers to the many technical questions we have put to National Grid. The public have called for costings for numerous, quite realistic alternatives to pylons and yet we still wait for them. National Grid say they want to announce their "Preferred (pylon) Corridor" in October. But with so many unanswered questions we believe this to be unconscionable. The first part of the consultation must surely run its course before any such decision can be made if indeed it needs making. This is because if, as we suspect, Gas Insulated Lines offer a better economic and environmental solution, then you do not need a corridor as such. Logically, you run the cables in a straight line from Bramford to Twinstead - out of site, under ground.

So taken together we contend that:-

•the proposed reinforcement is not needed for a decade at least: Sizewell C cannot be completed until well into the 2020's

•there is a better short term solution: upgrade the existing lines and add a switching station at the Twinstead Tee

•there is a better medium term solution if the reinforcement proves to be needed: Gas Insulated Lines - underground

•there is a better long term solution: Undersea Grids

What is certain is that when the public expressed an opinion at National Grid's "Consultation Events" back in late winter, they were woefully under-informed and that the value of their responses has been nullified by what we have learned since. But what we have learned and the connection strategies that the public want considered has not been brought before the public in a coherent way, if at all, by National Grid. This begs the question: should National Grid now be pressed to restart the consultation process from the beginning and do it properly, openly and fully? If National Grid do go ahead and announce a preferred corridor next month, it will simply demonstrate just how gesturally they have approached the entire public consultation process.

As we enter year two of our campaign, perhaps we do have something to celebrate after all. Our coalition of campaign and amenity groups means that were are better equipped than ever to combat National Grid's proposals. We have good quality arguments to present and experts in many fields to present them. As I write, ourcoalition of the engaged(see footnote for a list of members) are together sending our response to the Department of Energy and Climate Change's (DECC's) consultation on OFGEM's energy regulatory framework and this includes some powerful ideas such as ways to calculate the environmental impact of a pylon in £s and also how to calculate the cost per customer per year of the connection strategies we promote. This we do in a bid to show that what we are suggesting is highly affordable - a bargain in fact! This just goes to show that we are still very positive in our approach - working to find and present the realistic, positive solutions that will bring a better future and I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate my colleagues on developing what are in my view, some ground breaking ideas.

So the campaign goes on and as ever, our web site carries details of the results of our research and our case for rejecting the further blighting of our landscape with pylons.