Last week I attended a briefing for councillors who represent areas affected by the four possible corridors for £400kv overhead power lines. It is hard not to be cynical that the consultations don’t really make any difference. Cost is the main consideration, we keep being told. The environment is clearly a minor consideration. And this from a company which made £2.2 bn profit last year and is aiming to raise a further £3.2bn from shareholders to spend on “adapting the UK’s power networks for renewable sources of energy”. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/10129932.stm
Both here and in Somerset National Grid have been told they must give more details of the costings for options other than overhead lines. This means they will not be able to announce a preferred corridor until the Autumn of this year. If Corridor 2 is chosen then there will be further consultation on options 2a, 2b or 2c.
They told us that undergrounding through the Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty would cost £52.75m for 2.4km. That, they said, is 14.6 times more expensive than overhead cables. By comparison they gave the total cost of the overhead line as £45m. This is approximately £1.5m per kilometre. I gained the distinct impression that undergrounding would only be considered under duress. For example they had a section of overhead line turned down in North Yorkshire by the planning inspector. They then had to underground that section. It seems unlikely therefore that they will only underground lines under duress, even in the most sensitive landscape areas.
They also gave details of costings for an undersea option. They had looked at a connection between Sizewell and Rayleigh. The maximum capacity cable is 1000 megawatts and they would need several of them. Converter stations would be required at each end at £800m each. These converter stations are apparently the same size as a B&Q store. The circuits themselves would each cost £200m. Also there are no circuit breakers yet in existence for High Voltage DC. These costs and technical constraints seem to rule out an undersea option in the short term. However no doubt costs will fall and technology will improve – but not in time for this upgrade, unfortunately.
When they asked if they were designing in enough capacity for the 7.2GW of offshore licences which have been granted they said they assumed that not all would go ahead. If they did all go ahead there would be insufficient capacity. So we could be looking at even more power lines within the next 10 to 20 years.
Details of upcoming events below:
Meeting for Parish Councils 9th June Hadleigh
Public Information events 15th June Hadleigh, 16th June Bildeston, 7th July Hintlesham
Leaflets will be distributed by National Grid throughout the area.