Thursday, 29 April 2010

Europe and North Africa ‘could be powered by green supergrid’

Peter Jones

All of Europe and North Africa could be powered by renewable electricity by 2050 with the North Sea at the heart of a European “supersmartgrid”, according to a reort by the accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.
The report, compiled with a range of research institutes, says that the North and Baltic seas could sustain a large amount of offshore windpower with the North Sea also contributing big quantities of electricity from wave and tidal power.
This could be connected to a European “supersmartgrid” with more electricity supplies being generated by solar power in North Africa and more hydro development in Scandinavia and the Swiss Alps.
Kevin Reynard, a partner at PWC in Aberdeen, said that the report had cleared up some of the conventional criticisms of large scale renewables.

By connecting wind farms over a wide area using smart technology, the report argues that wind could produce reliable amounts of electricity.
“Opportunities to use clean, affordable natural sources of energy have been talked about for over 150 years and now is the time for positive action,” he said.
“We will need to see a big increase in renewables as well as the deployment of carbon capture and storage on a commercial scale if we are to reduce reliance on carbon within the power sector and meet our challenging longer term climate change goals.”
The study, which also involved the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, and the European Climate Forum set out a policy, market, investment and infrastructure roadmap towards a 2050 goal of achieving a 100 per cent renewable power sector.
It contends that the costs of electricity from new renewable technologies, currently high in comparison with conventional coal or gas-fired power generation, will reduce as technologies improve to make them competitive and not reliant on subsidies.
But Mark Higginson, another partner at PWC, said: “The funding of large scale renewables projects remains a challenge due to the current state of the credit markets and lack of clarity over carbon pricing in the absence of clear government policy.
“We have the skills, capability and expertise here in the North East and Scotland as a whole to make it happen. Indeed, a number of major oilfield service companies are already beginning to gear up to service the renewables sector. We just need more government and industry support to further unlock this potential.”