Does the UK need Norwegian hydropower? 

Posted: September 18, 2015 by oldbrew in Energy, Politics
Tags: ,

Loch Doon Hydro  - Water intake for Drumjohn hydro power station  [image credit: Mark Klimek]

Loch Doon Hydro –
Water intake for Drumjohn hydro power station
[image credit: Mark Klimek]

That’s the question posed by E & T Magazine. With generating plants closing regularly, some might say ‘yes’.

By 2021, a subsea cable built across the North Sea from Norway will provide enough power for 750,000 British homes, but with untouched hydro capacity in the UK, is this necessary?

The news that a £1.5bn, 450-mile subsea cable will be built across the North Sea to enable hydropower from Norway to light up the UK has come as something of a shock to the entire UK hydropower sector when over 26,000 sites have been identified as suitable for generating hydropower in England alone.

The UK has been generating energy from hydropower for more than a century; in fact Gilkes Ltd based in Kendal, England, has been manufacturing hydro turbines since 1853 – longer than any other company in the world.

Currently almost 4,000GWh of electricity a year is coming from hydropower in the UK and the potential for another 2GW of capacity has been identified. With the right policy approach and investment it could be a major source of clean renewable energy, and by developing the sites already identified, the UK could generate more power than the 1,400MW that will come through from Norway.

To put that another way, the cable from Norway will provide enough power for 750,000 homes and the sites we could develop here would power a million.

There’s also the fact that this major engineering project will not be completed until 2021, six years from now, when even with the lengthy permissions process that UK hydropower developments have to go through, which takes on average two years, if we got started now then the sites could be up, running and powering a million homes in just three to four years’ time.

So it seems difficult to comprehend that under the previous coalition government the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Ed Davey, spent two years working with National Grid to broker this deal with Norway rather than looking at ways to develop the sites identified for home-generated hydropower.

Simon Hamlyn, chief executive of the British Hydropower Association (BHA), says: ‘It is a great shame that government isn’t working a lot harder to promote the renewable energy potential in the UK rather than relying on imports. There is a significant amount of untapped hydro capacity in the UK that should be developed first.’

Full report: Does the UK need Norwegian hydropower? – E & T Magazine

Imagine a vote: yes or no?

  1. oldbrew says:

    A lot of the UK’s hydro power is in Scotland. The Norwegian link comes onshore in England.

    Is the volatile Scotland-UK political situation a factor here?

  2. Joe Public says:

    Wouldn’t the link be Scotland’s “insurance” policy for if/when they gain independence, and so they have a ‘market’ (albeit at give-away prices) for all their windmill-output that the English refuse to buy?

  3. oldbrew says:

    Joe: the interconnector link comes ashore at Blyth, Northumberland so an independent Scotland would have no control of it. If they wanted to sell wind power to Norway they would be competing with Denmark, Holland and Germany – possibly others too.

    Plus England/’rump UK’ could use Norwegian hydro as an alternative to Scottish hydro if necessary or maybe cheaper.

  4. Bryan says:

    The biggest potential site is near Loch Lomond.
    It was ruled out after a long campaign because of damage to Scotland natural beauty .
    At this was back around 1980