Full coordination of offshore network development in the North Sea could result in substantial savings of between £20bn and £55bn, according to research.
On 16 February, Imperial College London and E3G held a webinar on North Sea offshore grid integration. The government is targeting 40GW of offshore wind and 18GW of interconnection by 2030, rising from 10GW and 6GW respectively today, presenting a significant challenge when it comes to ensuring this is connected in the most appropriate, efficient way. This is something the existing offshore transmission regime review, launched in summer 2020, is seeking to address.
Head of Interconnection and Future International Projects at BEIS, Ben Zaczek outlined the potential benefits of multi-purpose hybrid interconnector projects and collaborating with stakeholders and North Sea neighbours. The multi-purpose hybrid projects combine offshore wind with market-to-market interconnection and can provide more coordinated and efficient offshore development. This approach would also deliver consumer benefits, trigger new offshore wind and interconnector capacity and have a lower spatial and environmental impact.
This was built on by Professor Goran Strbac of Imperial College London who detailed the Advanced Dynamic Transmission Investment Model (DTIM) which has been applied to identify the optimal network design and operation, given future offshore wind development scenarios, focusing on nine countries in northern Europe: the UK, Ireland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium and France.
The benefit of allowing cross-border connections through offshore to offshore was found to be substantial, with it able to cut network investment costs by more than 20%. This is due to the ability to replace long undersea interconnectors with multipurpose projects and that a cluster can have connection corridors to multiple countries, ensuring its energy can be used in whichever country has the largest need.
It further found that available offshore wind capacity in the North Sea cannot be fully used in the nine countries due to assumptions related to electricity demand in this area, especially in the high offshore wind deployment scenario. Production of hydrogen or export of offshore wind to other parts of Europe would enable full utilisation of offshore wind in the North Sea, while warning was given to how production of hydrogen offshore or onshore by electrolysers could have significant implications on the offshore electricity and gas networks.