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United Kingdom

Group maps grid strategy for Britain

Two major north-south subsea transmission links are included in a £4.7 billion package of reinforcements to the electricity grid network proposed by a cross-industry group to enable the UK to meet its 2020 renewables and carbon reduction targets. The proposal comes from the Electricity Network Strategy Group (ENSG), which recommends a combination of line upgrades and up to 1000 kilometres of new cables to accommodate some 30% of UK electricity from renewables and new nuclear capacity. The program of grid expansion -- the biggest in Britain since the early 1960s -- would allow for an additional 45 GW of generation, of which 34 GW would be from onshore and offshore wind.

The ENSG notes that with up to 11.4 GW of renewables likely to be built in Scotland by 2020, additional north-south power flows will be needed. It recommends that work start immediately on both mainland upgrades and on a western subsea 1.8 GW high-voltage, direct-current (HVDC) link between Hunterston, in Ayrshire, and Deeside, between north Wales and England. Later, an eastern subsea 1.8 GW HVDC cable could be needed to run between Peterhead in north-east Scotland and county Durham in north-east England.

Further mainland reinforcements will be needed throughout Britain to accommodate up to 25 GW of offshore wind and onshore wind farms. The ENSG says the reinforcements can be delivered within the timescales required, but "least regret" pre-construction engineering work should be carried out to allow construction to start as soon as the transmission owners are confident the reinforcements are needed.

"This is a massive long-term investment opportunity and this upgrade work will help support jobs across the low carbon economy," says energy minister Mike O'Brien. "Having a grid which is fit for purpose is vital for our ambitions to cut carbon emissions and increase security of supply."

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