The SVU Newsletter 

June 2011

The SVU Newsletter for June 2011

Published Saturday, 25 June 2011

Key Issues This Month

•National Grid's imminent Bramford to Twinstead Corridor Announcement

•The threat to the Waveney Valley - National Grid start to mobilise

•The Government's National Policy Statements - have they got them right?

•The Supergrid: Its implications for us

Local News:National Grid's Corridor Announcement to be made next month

Despite National Grid's failure to convincingly make their case for the pylon proposals they have put before us all and despite the fact that the most appropriate connection strategies do not need a "corridor" (underground tunnels logically go as straight as possible from A to B, or is it B to T, under the landscape), they seem determined to press ahead and make an announcement next month. This timing has not been made official but the best information we have suggests thatthe corridor decision will be announced by National Grid mid Julyand that they will have disregarded the fact that the Government instigated IET/MEMA undergrounding costs research and consultation is not complete (partly, we are told, due to a failure of NG to provide adequate information), retained their ill informed and myopic undergrounding policy and declared thattheir preferred route corridor for pylons is corridor 2B. This is the strategy that as we have warned, ticks their "statutory obligations" box but fails to address the real world problem, that the most likely thing to cause a failure of overhead lines is extreme weather. Putting 4 circuits of the highest capacity overhead lines possible on these pylons, in close proximity, is just asking for trouble in our globally warmed world. To loose 4 circuits of the capacity involved here would be to loose 20% of all the power in the whole of the UK. Madness.

And this decision would bring with it a new sub station. We also predict that National Grid will declare their preferred site to be between the woodlands on the A131 near Twinstead on the Sudbury to Halstead road. This would bring with it major issues of hard to mitigate 100hz hum from the 165 ton transformers which would permeate the currently tranquil country homes of the local inhabitants. The site is on very high ground for this low relief landscape and so that you can judge the potential impact on the currently long reaching country views we present to following photographs. On the left is the field near Twinstead, on the right, the Patford Bridge sub station which National Grid has identified at its "Consultation Events" as being similar to what they want to build.

The strange coincidence is, the special pylon rigging seems to be of the correct type already...


Not quite so local News:Waveney Valley - Be ware!

The Waveney valley is a beautiful, open, natural place situated on the Suffolk / Norfolk border. Big East Anglian skies meet an unfettered flat horizon punctuated by the occasional large tree. Small boats meander just for the fun of it on slow moving waters through this landscape that supports thousands of jobs in the leisure industry. But this tranquil holidaymakers idyl is about to collide with one of the scourges of the early 21st century.

Right now, National Grid (NG) are assembling a team who want to string a line of 46 metre tall pylons right across this low relief landscape and would potentially take the pylons through a National Park (The Broads) or other highly designated landscape areas. At that height they are taller than anything within that landscape and indeed taller than the landscape itself. In this countryside, choosing a "route corridor" as NG want us on the southern border to do is a total nonsense. The pylons would be visible from any place within the wider landscape that would surround and encompass the "corridors". We just hope that the people of the area realise soon enough the impact failing to prevent this will have on their lives.

CertainlyStour Valley Undergroundis just one organisation who is ready and waiting to help in any way we can. There are economic underground electricity transmission technologies that can put the connection NG are proposing where it should be - out of sight - beneath this economically important landscape.To the people of the Waveney Valley area, we say:- you have friends and fellow travellers right across the UK. The Somerset Levels, for example, are under a similar threat and there are many capable campaigners there also - just contact us and we will gladly put you in touch with them.


National News:The Government's National Policy Statements on Energy

The Department of Energy and Climate Change has now published its National Policy Statements (NPS) ahead of their being put before Parliament. These are the statements of principle that will guide the way planning applications for infrastructure such as overhead power lines are handled and will therefore impact the local proposals for new overhead lines from Bramford to Twinstead.

Stour Valley Underground responded to the consultations that have lead to the creation of these policy statements with the aim of making possible the adoption of the lower environmental impact transmission technologies we advocate. Whilst there are clear signs in the NPS of the acceptance that underground transmission systems might well be the right choice in certain circumstances, there are still worrying errors of fact contained within them. An example is the gross overstatement of the size of the swathe of land that is required to underground power lines.

Other worries include the fact that the NPS have not been developed to integrate with the forthcoming revision to the way the energy industry is regulated. From previous newsletters you will be aware that much work has been done on socio-economic aspects of overhead line projects such aswillingness to pay, but despite the fact that this will form part of the new regulatory regime, it is missing from the NPS.

And then there is the not small matter of the impact of offshore developments, both in terms of the wind and other renewable generation in our coastal waters on the on-land grid and the way it is developed. Offshore developments also include the forthcoming Supergrid, much more on which later. Neither of these aspects of offshore development seem to be properly incorporated into the framing of the NPS.

All things considered, it looks as though much more lobbying is still required, particularly of our MP's to have this situation rectified before inadequately prepared Policy hamstrings the proper development of our future energy infrastructure.


International Developments: 

The House of Commons Energy Select Committee hears

evidence on that most international of projects: The Supergrid

Inspired by the evidence presented to the Select Committee under its chair, South Suffolk MP,Tim Yeo, the bulk of our newsletter this month sets out to paint you a picture of the coming Europe wide (and beyond) electricity grid, the Supergrid. We show why we believe you need to know about it and how it impacts our local issue.Here we describes a way into the future that serves our original perhaps narrow objective - no more ugly pylons in our landscape. We show why the Supergrid ticks all the economic, energy security and environmental boxes. It also explains why we believe this is a vision for a better Britain that is a worthy legacy to leave future generations.

Supergrid to the rescue - part deux

No question about it, the development or otherwise of the Supergrid

will be pivotal in influencingour Nation's energy future and our prosperity.


it makes the undergrounding of the transmission

from Bramford to Twinstead and way beyond, theonlyeconomic and technically feasible choice.

Lets start with the most obvious question:-

The Supergrid, what is it?

Right now, the Supergrid is but a proposal for an electricity grid that links all of the grids and renewable generators of Europe and beyond, eventually including the Middle East and North Africa. They even have a name for this area: EUMENA. Just look at the scale of the vision presented by Desertec, an organisation determined to exploit North Africa's solar energy potential and bring the power north to Europe.

There are two primary reasons why we need a Supergrid. Firstly, to make renewable generation such as windfarms and solar farms work to provide constant, secure, economic supplies of energy, where it is needed. The sun goes down, the wind stops blowing but the power has to keep flowing. But it is always windy or sunny somewhere in this huge slice of geography so if you connect all the generators to all of the users, then the power should always be on.

The second reason is to enable an international energy market to develop to keep energy prices down and enable huge levels of energy trading. That will be enormously to the UK's economic benefit. An earlier report from the Crown Estates"Offshore Valuation"showed the potential output from wind generation around our coasts would be equal to something like one billion barrels of oil per year - that's more output than North Sea Oil and Gas! That would make us a major energy exporter once again. To fail to embrace this opportunity would be a disastrous failure of government to create the right environment to enable it to happen through vision, planning, regulation and incentives.

There are other exciting potentials that come with the Supergrid. Energy storage becomes possible through the use of spare or excess renewable energy to pump water back up to the upper lakes of hydroelectric schemes and this is already being planned for or built. When the power is needed the water is simply runs back down hill through the turbines to produce the required electricity. This is called "pumped storage" and is one of very few such high capacity energy storage technologies currently available.

The form the electricity takes within a Supergrid is different to what you have coming out of your electricity sockets at home. You are supplied with AC - Alternating Current that oscillates 50 times per second. There are however major technical problems that occur when you try to transmit large amounts of AC current over long distances and it becomes more economic to transmit it as Direct Current or DC. That's the non oscillating form of electricity that a torch battery produces. But in a Supergrid, the voltages are very high so it's called High Voltage DC or HVDC.

A key thing to remember about our energy future here in the UK is where geographically the generation will take place: around the coast. We in SVU have argued for a sub sea grid for a long while and our simple paper on this, published our website is the most read of all the site's pages. We have also shown you maps of the proposed Supergrid before. But this time, we want you to look for the gaps in the grid. They could have major implications for us here in the East of England.

You will see from this map from an international organisation calledFriends of the Supergridthat there is a gap and it is on the UK mainland. The Supergrid is a network signified by blue lines with the network intersections (known as "Supernodes") marked by blue discs. The idea is that the windfarms are linked to the Supernodes and as you can see, most of these are around the UK. You might think from this that the nodes on the UK mainland are simply supplying the UK grid but this is not necessarily all they do. They can in fact be links that make the UK grid part of the Supergrid.

In the past we have told of how we started out looking to the east for the source of renewably generated and low carbon generated electricity that would lead to National Grid wanting to blight our landscape with pylons. But then we realised from information from theEuropean Wind Energy Associationthat there was huge potential for yet more power to come from the west into our region. We now realise that this issue is bigger than we imagined.

The Irish economy is generally regarded to be in a very poor state and that Ireland has never had a major native source of energy. Now it has: Wind. The potential around Eire for exploiting renewable energy is enormous and its potential impact on their economy vast. The widespread development of renewable generation around the island could be a cornerstone for their economic recovery and rightly so. But look again at the map and ask yourself how they will get their energy to market? The answer has surely to be by transmission across the UK mainland to mainland Europe and that is why it has implications for us.

Look next at where the Supernodes in the North Sea are. The most southerly one will serve London and it will be off our coast. Where exactly? We don't know, but Bramford is being expanded vastly. National Grid seem to be keeping a vast amount of potential transmission capacity on existing pylons from Sizewell on the North Sea coast to Bramford for undisclosed uses. The Anglia One windfarm was not given a connection either at Sizewell or at the equally geographically beneficial coastal installations at Bradwell in Essex with its currently unused set of pylons down to the important London supply grid hub at Rayleigh. Could it be that these two points are earmarked for another subsea link direct to Europe connected to one, with the Supernode link for London connected to the other? Either or both would bring huge amounts of power through our region.

How much power are we talking about? The answer to that can be found in recent evidence given to the government's Energy Select Committee chaired by our own local MP, Tim Yeo. You can find an entirely readable and comprehensible transcript of the evidencehere.The evidence tells us that the transmission capacities required within the Supergrid are vast and that much of this will be on land. By vast we mean 20 giga watts (that's 20 thousand million watts) ten times that which you find on a high capacity circuit on the pylons you see about you. It is simply inconceivable (we prey!) that this capacity would be achieved by (say) five parallel lines of pylons. And this is where we need to introduce you to yet another electricity transmission technology that can achieve this level of transmission. This technology is in essence just as remarkably simple as the Gas Insulated Lines we have told you about in previous newsletters.

I expect it took you less than a second to fathom how the word EUMINA was arrived at earlier. So I don't think you will have too much trouble with the new word "Elpipes". In essence we are talking about an underground transmission system that is installed rather like the water pipeline we brought to your attentionlast monthin our newsletter and from the US publicationElectricity Todaywe can show you a clipping that indicates what we are talking about.

We have reproduced the diagram with its original legend so that you can see that the quoted capacity is 15 gigawatts, vastly more than that which a pylon system can carry and utterly necessary technology for the on-land parts of the Supergrid.

You might by now be asking yourself why we think this might all be relevant to us. After all, National Grid say that they are addressing a local issue of grid security and its ability to "export" electricity out of this area. The answer is born of our conclusion that National Grid have failed to take on board the scale of change that will be forced upon them by the Europe wide developments we have been discussing here. There will be a much greater need for increased transmission capacity across our country thanthe document National Grid are working to (ENSG Vision for 2020)planned for.

In their evidence to the Select Committee, the experts repeated that what is coming is astep changein the whole electricity generation / transmission / distribution / consumption system. What is required is not just evolution or a need for patching up of the old system. From speeches by the Prime Minister and other ministers, we know we as a country are signed up to the Supergrid project. National Grid see our area here in the East of England as a"major transmission corridor". The Supergrid will bring with it the potential to reduce on-land transmission to some extent because much of the power can be transmitted down our coasts and only brought ashore where it needs to feed into the domestic supply grid. There will however still be a need for greater transmission capacity in our area and the only way to achieve this economically on the domestic AC grid is through underground Gas Insulated Lines (GIL). With the advent of Supergrid however, there will also be a need to get vast amounts of renewably generated electricity right across the country to link the western British and the Irish parts of the Supergrid to Europe's mainland. This implies that there will also be a need to overlay parts of the HVDC Supergrid over (our rather UNDER!) the on-land grid.

Further evidence from the experts supporting the President of the Friends of the Supergrid, Eddie O'Connor indicates that the development of the Supergrid is more in the interests of the UK than almost any other nation, that sensibly, development of the grid will start in the North Sea and connect the UK's offshore windfarms. This means that the current, ill planed and poorly co ordinated windfarm connection strategy that is impacting National Grid's proposals locally is utterly wrong and likely to be superseded in the near future. This could leave vastly costly transmission assets stranded, costly to us in terms of both money and a landscape blighted with unnecessary pylons.

The other thing that is clear is that the transmission levels that are going to be needed for the Supergrid and all that goes with it will have to go underground for both technical and economic reasons. In a paper presented this year to the IEEE (available here), it was shown that going forward, GIL for HVAC and Elpipes for HVDC are the most economic technologies for transmission in the future, costing less per unit of electricity transmitted than overhead lines. So it is not just our amenity value of landscape argument that demands the transmission systems go underground: technically and economically, it is the only solution!

Here we want to be very clear. Some of our local MP's have believed that our objectives stand little chance of success because the economic argument ran counter to our aims. THIS IS UNTRUE. In light of the most recent research, current and near future developments and the compelling need for the Supergrid, the evidence shows that the most economic approach to these grid developments is to put these high capacity AC and DC transmission systems underground.


So to put the above ideas together, we are arguing that National Grid's proposals for Bramford to Twinstead are out of date already and simply wrong on a needs, current developments, economic and technological basis. The coming revolution in energy generation will happen. It is enshrined in both UK and EU statute and law. The Supergrid is a development that is in our best energy security and economic interests. It will spread around and across (under) our land. It will necessitate increases in the transmission capacities across our land including locally if National Grid continue to regard our local landscape as a "major transmission corridor".

We have two seemingly underexploited links from the coast to our UK transmission grid here in East Anglia, one at Sizewell and the other one at Bradwell. A Supernode connection point on the Supergrid will be located off our coast and will have to be connected to land to link to and supply the London area. Logically, either Sizewell in Suffolk or Bradwell in Essex would be selected for this connection as some infrastructure either already exists or will soon exist therefor other reasons. We also consider there to be potential for early developments from one of these locations of another sub sea link direct to Europe, rather like the BRITNED connector from the Isle of Grain in the Thames Estuary to near Rotterdam in Holland. This HVDC undersea link that National Grid part own already enables the import / export of electricity and indeed it seems it could already have been the case that power was imported through this connector, transmitted across the UK grid and then exported via another connector to Ireland. So what we have been describing could be happening in a small way already. Small way? Well perhaps not. If this is what has happened then the 1/2 gigawatt that was exported to Ireland via the UK from Holland represents a 1% increase in National Grid's transmission market so developing more direct sub sea BRITNED type connectors might well form part of National Grid's plan for market growth.

But the single most important conclusion from what we have looked at this month is that there is a real prospect that even though much bulk electricity transmission around the British Isles will in future take place under the sea, that there will continue to be a need for high capacity on-land transmission. The evidence we have seen shows that the only economic and environmentally acceptable way to develop the UK on-land grid for the coming renewable energy revolution is through the use of high capacity UNDERGROUND transmission systems.

There is another highly positive consequence of a full implementation of the Supergrid for us. Currently and quite appallingly, there is as we noted above, a threat to the low relief Broadland landscape of the Waveney Valley in North Suffolk from another proposal for a new line of 400kV pylons from Lowestoft to the inland, south going overhead lines from Norwich. This is brought about by the currently ill co-ordinated approach to connecting the Anglia 1 windfarm, soon to be off our coast. The Supergrid would have the whole windfarm connected to a Supernode at sea and so there would be no need for this pylon blighting or indeed any other landfalls and pylons to connect this important development. This shows just one reason why the Supergrid will yield huge benefits to the Eastern Counties, Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex. There will be others - economic and employment (thousands of new jobs) being just two which we will cover in a future newsletter.

As ever we providelinksto supporting documents that you might want to look at to verify our assertions throughout this newsletter. One particular document however provides an enormous amount of information that underpins our position and that is the document which contains the evidence presented to the House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Select Committee under Tim Yeo's chairmanship, a copy of which is availablehere.