The UK and Denmark are in negotiations over the possibility of laying a powerful electricity cable between the two countries under the North Sea.
The cable was on the agenda during a high-profile meeting of energy ministers from several north European countries in Copenhagen yesterday who met to discuss the creation of a fully-integrated green energy market.
Speaking to Berlingske newspaper following the meeting, the head of the UK’s Department of Energy (DECC), energy secretary Ed Davey (Liberal Democrat), said that linking the UK to the north European energy network was vital.
“We are only in the preliminary phase and the cheque has yet to be signed," Davey said. "But this form of energy infrastructure is very important for maintaining energy security.”
Denmark is connected to the energy networks of its neighbours via cables through which electricity is imported or exported based on demand.
For example, on windy days Denmark’s offshore wind farms can produce more electricity than the Danish market can use and so the surplus is then exported. And on days when Norway produces high levels of hydroelectricity, cables beneath the Skagerrak strait transfers this surplus energy to Denmark.
The plan to connect the UK to Denmark with a North Sea cable would enable the two countries to benefit from each other’s surplus green energy – the cable would be able to transfer around 700 megawatts, which is enough power for 700,000 homes.
Seen from a wider perspective, however, it is only one of many new connections that are needed to upgrade Europe’s ageing electricity network that some estimates suggest needs about one trillion kroner of investment.
A more secure and green European energy network can be achieved if investments could link hydro and wind power from the north with solar power and nuclear energy in southern and central Europe.
“Many countries, especially in central Europe, are concerned because they are reliant on relatively few sources of energy,” Davey told Berlingske. “By ensuring better connections, we can minimise this fear and that will point us in the direction of a more ambitious climate policy.”
Denmark's energy minister, Martin Lidegaard (Radikale), also hopes that a more integrated energy network will help bring down energy costs.
“I envisage Danish consumers in ten years going on the internet and buying their electricity from a supplier in the UK,” Lidegaard told Berlingske. “A larger European energy market will benefit all European consumers.”
Lidegaard and Davey argue the larger energy network will increase competition between suppliers and drive down prices. But Peter Østermark Andreasen, the CEO of Energinet.dk, warns that it’s not quite that simple.
“The base price of electricity is higher in the UK than in Nordic countries and that could raise prices for Danish consumers,” Andreasen told Berlingske. “On the other hand, the switch-over to green energy sources will become more economically sound as it increases in value.”
While Davey is enthusiastic about connecting to Denmark’s wind energy, the UK energy minister sitting beneath Davey in the DECC, John Hayes (Conservative), recently stated that the UK didn’t need any more windmills.
In an interview with the Daily Mail Hayes said that “enough was enough” and that “we can no longer have wind turbines imposed on communities.”
Hayes' statements contradicted the official government policy on renewable energy and exposed the scepticism toward renewable energy by many influential figures within the Conservative party, the dominant party in the coalition with the Liberal Democrats.
The Danish policy on renewable energy is more positive however, after the Danish government announced a plan to make Denmark entirely off of fossil fuels by 2050.