UK Supergrid plans grilled at Westminster

The UK could find itself part of a European Supergrid by the 2020s. MPs at the Energy Select Committee held this morning heard that a key step towards such a […]

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By Vicky Ellis

The UK could find itself part of a European Supergrid by the 2020s. MPs at the Energy Select Committee held this morning heard that a key step towards such a grid, with an integrated offshore network, could operate as early as 2020.

Alison Kay, Commercial Director for Transmission for the National Grid told the Committee that the UK could be harnessing 16GW of offshore wind by then which would be crucial in a move towards the Supergrid.

She said: “There are several benefits to an integrated offshore network. Estimates show that it could knock 25% off the cost by integrating it… It could decrease by half the number of onshore connection points, and as a converter station is twice the size of a football pitch, the space required is great.”

A supergrid has been long touted as a way of connecting up Europe’s various power supplies. Its real benefit comes in moving renewable energy from where its generated to where its needed. But many say its far too costly and isn’t something to rush into.

Ms Kay advised the UK take one step at a time towards the supergrid: “An integrated offshore network, which we see as an important step towards a supergrid, is critical to meeting our renewable targets.”

Stuart Cook, Senior Partner for Transmission and Governance at Ofgem argued that we shouldn’t jump to the supergrid too soon: “It’s not a quantum shift in technology, but my technical advisors say we mustn’t rush into it.”

Though not entirely convinced that the UK needed the supergrid, he added that most studies point to the 2020s as the decade for a move to a supergrid, if it takes place.

Future plans for this must be taken into account when laying the groundwork for the integrated network, the witnesses agreed, because adding an upgrade to offshore projects later would cost more.