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UK, Norway Elec Network Cos To Study Subsea Power Link

Oct 6, 2009 - Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

U.K. and Norwegian electricity network operators National Grid PLC (NGG) and Statnett said Tuesday they have agreed to explore prospects for a high-voltage power cable under the North Sea linking the two countries and offshore renewable power sources.

The direct current cable would allow the two-way flow of electricity and the optimal use across both countries of new large-scale wind energy, Norwegian hydroelectric power and British thermal power, such as coal and gas-fired power stations, the companies said in a joint statement.

The link could include connection nodes along the route with spurs taking power from offshore generation - such as wind farms - and supplying low-carbon electricity to oil and gas platforms, which are heavy electricity consumers.

"This is a really exciting opportunity. Greater interconnection with Europe will be an important tool to help us balance the system with large quantities of variable wind generation in the U.K., and if a U.K.-Norway link can become the backbone of a new North Sea super grid, it will play an especially valuable role," said Nick Winser, National Grid’s Executive Director for Transmission.

The U.K. plans to get around 30% of its electricity from wind power, wave and tidal energy and other renewables by 2020 in order to meet greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. Offshore wind is intended to be a significant chunk of this, given planning constraints and a lack of sufficient land for onshore turbines.

The idea of an offshore "super grid" of high voltage subsea cables is often touted as a way to overcome one of the main drawbacks of wind, wave and tidal power - its intermittent and often unpredictable nature. For example, excess power supply in a windy region could be transmitted to another area experiencing calm weather.

A pre-feasibility study has suggested that the cable could be economically and technically viable. The new agreement, which runs until 2011, will allow further work to answer such questions as the optimal route for the cable and the best regulatory model.

Company Web site: http://www.nationalgrid.com; http://www.statnett.no

-By James Herron, Dow Jones Newswires; +44 (0)20 7842 9317; james.herron@ dowjones.com

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