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Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Much ado about Energy

A geothermal plant in Iceland 
Energy security has become a big issue with first Germany signing Greece up to become its solar power farm and now British authorities say they are in talks that could see electricity generated in Iceland from the country's volcanoes and geysers powering British homes. U.K. Energy Minister Charles Hendry will visit Iceland in May to negotiate an agreement to lay hundreds of miles of cables underwater to satisfy Britain's energy needs, Sky News Online reported Friday.

The cables, known as interconnectors, would carry energy harvested from Iceland's geothermal sources and could provide a third of Britain's average electricity demand, Hendry said. "We are looking to a low carbon economy. I think the best way is to get a number of different inter-connectors first," he said.

To reach Iceland the copper cables would need to be around 930 miles long, the longest such cables in the world. Iceland is keen to export energy after suffering badly in the global financial crisis when all its major banks collapsed, experts said.

The idea of Icelandic interconnectors have been discussed for decades, and while they were always deemed too expensive, rising energy prices in Europe have now made it feasible, they said. Iceland's geothermal energy prices would be negotiated on long-term contracts, Hendry said.

"We want to give consumers a clearer and more predictable idea of what they will have to pay," he said. Britain currently has two international interconnectors with France and the Netherlands.

But the creation of an offshore 'super grid' and a major upgrade of energy interconnections are not the silver bullet solutions to Europe's energy needs, an independent study published by Pöyry has found.

The report has found that the introduction of improved connectivity would only partially alleviate the volatility of increased renewable energy generation. In the North European Wind and Solar Intermittency Study (NEWSIS) Pöyry conducted detailed market analysis of the future impacts wind and solar energy have on the electricity markets across Northern Europe as it heads towards the 2020 decarbonisation targets and beyond.

The study also concluded that weather is going to play a major role in determining how much electricity is generated and supplied to home and businesses throughout Europe, with electricity prices much lower when it is very windy, but unfortunately higher when it is still.