March 2013

Energy cheaper thanks to electricity grid in the North Sea

By interconnecting wind farms located in the North Sea and also connecting them directly to the electricity grids of various countries, energy will become cheaper for European consumers and the cost price of wind energy may drop significantly. A consortium of industrial businesses, knowledge institutes and the Dutch government is investing a total of 3 million euro over a period of four years to explore opportunities and to develop concrete proposals. ECN is one of the partners in this consortium called Synergies at Sea, which also includes energy company Nuon/Vattenfall, Liandon (affiliated with grid operator Liander), engineering companies Grontmij and Royal HaskoningDHV, Delft University of Technology (TUD), the Groningen Centre of Energy Law at the University of Groningen and the innovative SME DC Offshore Energy and Energy Solutions.

Source: Grontmij

Technical contribution of ECN

ECN’s contribution comprises both technology and policy. Together with the TUD, ECN is developing new concepts for an efficient electrical infrastructure to connect wind farms to the national grids. We are working on better balancing the generated energy from wind farms to the current energy demand to ensure optimal deployment of the electricity grid. Moreover, in collaboration with Liandon, ECN is examining the corrosion resistance of combinations of materials in a cooling system that is part of an innovative offshore transformer station.

Policy contribution of ECN

In addition to these technical contributions, ECN is supporting the involved authorities in the countries surrounding the North Sea in setting their priorities and making their investment decisions. To this end, we calculate the social costs and benefits of various scenarios for grid development and weigh these scenarios against each other. These contributions are combined with the contributions of the other partners in an integral feasibility study of various business cases. Other parties in the consortium are studying alternative financial structures, the required amendments in laws and regulations and new business cases that are suitable for an open energy market.

Free market

The consortium supports the EU’s ambition of realising one international electricity grid in and around the North Sea. Various energy companies will be sharing this grid. It will not only be used for electricity generated by the wind farms; it also enables the exchange of energy from other sources, such as hydrogen power or solar energy. Over time, a free electricity market will arise among the countries surrounding the North Sea: energy companies can thus buy their electricity at the location that offers the lowest price. Such an open electricity grid with free trading will make energy more affordable for consumers. Moreover, wind energy entrepreneurs are expected to benefit from lower costs and more optimal deployment of the wind farms thanks to the shared innovative infrastructure.

Electricity hub

All North Sea countries together have plans for building 120 offshore wind farms, comprising about 10,000 turbines that can supply electricity to about 70 million households. Significant cost price reductions are necessary to make offshore wind energy competitive and to raise the share of renewable energy to 16 per cent in 2020, as targeted by the Dutch government. An international electricity grid in the North Sea can contribute to this ambition. What is more, the Netherlands will be able to benefit even more from its central location in Europe with such a grid. Next to the ‘gas hub’ the Netherlands will then also become the 'electricity hub’.

Are you interested in learning more about the plans and activities of the Synergies at Sea top team? Please contact Edwin Wiggelinkhuizen.