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Norwegian grid plans subsea power cable to UK

Plans to build the world's longest subsea power cable between Britain and Norway has moved further ahead.

Plans to build the world’s longest subsea power cable between Britain and Norway moved further ahead on Monday with an application to exchange electricity between the two countries.

Statnett, the Norwegian state-owned electricity grid, has applied for a licence to transmit power along the 450-mile cable which the company plans to build with Britain’s National Grid.

National Grid Transco, which operates the British electricity and gas transmission networks, is widely expected to give the go-ahead for the project in the next few months.

The application to the Norwegian Petroleum and Energy Ministry for a licence to exchange electricity is seen as a strong signal that Statnett expects British approval to be granted.

The two companies propose to lay a 450-mile, direct-current cable along the bed of the North Sea. The project is expected to cost about £700m ($1.13bn) and is designed to take advantage of different power supply and demand cycles between the two countries.

Some 98 per cent of Norway’s electricity comes from hydroelectric sources. This is very cheap to produce but can lead to expensive power shortages during droughts.

Britain by comparison relies principally on its large fleet of coal, gas, oil and nuclear power stations. This could leave the country increasingly vulnerable to imported gas as ageing nuclear plants close and Britain’s North sea oil and gas reserves become depleted.

The government has warned that Britain could be importing up to 90 per cent of its gas needs by 2020.

The new cable would allow the UK to export surplus electricity during periods of low rainfall in Norway and import cheap power when water levels are high.

The UK also has higher demand patterns during the day when Norwegian consumption is lower. Demand in Norway is correspondingly higher at night.

The interconnecter will provide two cables linking Suldal in Norway to Easington in Durham. It will be able to transmit power in both directions and will have a transmission capacity of 1,200 megawatts.

National Grid Transco said it would give an update on the project when it announces financial results next week. The UK firm is also looking at proposals to build a power link to the Netherlands.