By Gemma Childe on 17th Apr 2012
Thousands of miles of high-voltage cables could be laid across the ocean floor to enable Iceland’s volcanoes to pump low-carbon electricity into the UK.
The Government has backed plans to connect the UK to Iceland’s plentiful geothermal energy. Charles Hendry, the energy minister, has already met the head of Iceland’s national grid to discuss the proposal, which is planned for the next decade.
The Prime Minister has supported the idea for the web of sea-floor cables, called interconnectors, that would link the UK to a Europe-wide supergrid, but they come at a price and require large investments.
There are currently two existing international interconnectors, to France and the Netherlands, but nine more are either in construction, formal planning or undergoing feasibility studies. The Britain-Netherland interconnector, which opened last year, was the first international link in 25 years and cost £500million.
A supergrid would combine the wind and wave power of northern Europe with solar projects in southern Europe and north Africa to deliver reliable, clean energy to meet climate change targets and reduce dependence on fossil fuel imports.
Greenpeace's Doug Parr said: "Interconnectors are the cheapest way of backing up wind, because you avoid the greater capital cost of building power stations. We will of course be buying power in when the wind is not blowing, but the interconnectors mean we can sell our wind power when it does, and we have the best wind resource in Europe."
Iceland sits over a mid-ocean split in the earth's crust which means the cable would have to be 1,000 to 1,500km long and without doubt the longest in the world.
The UK has always been energy independent but with the North Sea's oil and gas failing and coal considered too polluting, Mr Hendry said Britain would be dependent on imported energy.
"The cables are an absolutely critical part of energy security and for low carbon energy,” he added.
The Government's legally binding targets to reduce carbon emissions are another reason for supporting the new interconnectors, which could supply a third of the nation's average electricity demand.