REVOLT opposing unnecessary, excessive and intrusive powerline development

opposing unnecessary, excessive and intrusive powerline development

REVOLT Newsletter 241

Revolt news 2/11/2007

1. Alex Salmond's idea (APPENDIX A) of a sub-sea supergrid from the north of Scotland to Norway sounds pretty whacky! If we must have wind power from the remote north of Scotland, subsea transmission would be good, but not to Scandinavia which also has a surplus of renewable energy. Subsea to London, Belgium and Holland, yes, but not Norway.

2. An article (APPENDIX B) passed by the Johnsons in Canada reports contrasting cost estimates for directional drilling (DD) to install deep-buried (rather than trenched) underground cable (UGC) transmission lines. We don't know if Vernon's estimate of $9 m was just for DD without the cost of cables etc. Technology and costs of UGC keep changing, generally making it more affordable. Revolt reported on HVDC and UGC back in 2004 (news172.3, 174.4) and variously since then as information developed.

3. Britain faces the prospect of power shortages and soaring prices this winter after the National Grid warned of a shortfall in electricity- generating capacity yesterday (Guardian story, APPENDIX C). 4. Keith Borthwick sends news from Australia of the continuing Basslink fiasco (APPENDIX D) and calls for a Federal Royal Commission to investigate the establishment of Basslink.

5. The Revolt AGM held at the end of October confirmed the aims and objectives with their focus on powerlines and energy policy. There had been discussion about other environmental impacts, such as the spreading of (sometimes inadequately treated) human sewage sludge on fields, which has recently caused a stink as well as a health hazard! While Revolt supports protests against this practice, it was decided not to take on new issues directly.

6. The AGM also reviewed Revolt's Position Statement. The updated version is now on the web site, linked from the home page along with the new FAQs. An additional FAQ14 is already in the pipeline, so this is a moving picture. Hopefully FAQs will help concerned members of the public to access more easily what they need to know.

7. A further development soon to be posted on the web site is a set of Revolt Notes, linked from the home page. It includes informal running notes on such things as EMF safe distances, probity in EMF research, underground cables, and property devaluation. These notes collect key points from various Revolt news items, correspondence and research.

8. In addition to the 85 km Cavan-Tyrone 400 kV (AC) Interconnector proposed between Northern Ireland and the Republic, the Irish grid company Eirgrid proposes a further 58 km 400 kV line from Cavan to Meath near Dublin. Then this will connect, at a substation called Woodland in County Meath, to a proposed HVDC undersea 200 km 500 MW Interconnector to Britain with 70 km on land. The projects plan for completion by 2012 and are supported by EU Trans-European Networks (TENS) policy. http://www.eirgrid.com  http://www.nie.co.uk

9. The multiple Eirgrid project(s) raise the issue of what is a single project under the EU Environmental Impact Directive 97/11/EC and whether there should be a Strategic Environmental Assessment under Directive 2001/42/EC for the whole grid and wind policy. A little more discussion is at APPENDIX E.

10. Thanks to Krzysztof Kuklinski in Poland for alerting us to the EU Parliamentary Question put by Caroline Lucas 19 September 2007. She describes the Bioinitiative Report and the role of the EEA in support of it, and asks what action the Commission will take in response. http://tinyurl.com/3b7fna >

*****

APPENDIX A Salmond plans Norwegian energy link-up

The Scotsman, 30 Oct 07

ALEX Salmond, the First Minister, is to meet Jens Stoltenberg, the Norwegian prime minister, over plans to create a subsea "supergrid" to take green energy from Scotland to Europe.

Proposals have been previously mooted to connect renewable schemes in the Highlands and Islands to an underwater grid in the North Sea to export power to the Continent.

Yesterday, Mr Salmond told the Highlands and Islands Convention that Scotland's natural resources held considerable potential as sources of power.

He added: "We have six to seven times the power Scotland needs, but we have to figure out how we take that power to market. It would have to go subsea in a supergrid to take the power to energy-poor areas."

Mr Salmond plans to meet Mr Stoltenberg and European officials early next year. The First Minister said he also hopes to make progress on reducing National Grid connection charges.

APPENDIX B BCTC not keen on TRAHVOL solution

Maureen Gulyas and Sandor Gyarmati , The Delta Optimist Saturday, October 27, 2007

Tsawwassen residents lobbying to keep higher voltage power lines away from their homes have high hopes that horizontal directional drilling could be the answer.

Calling it a compromise solution, homeowners along the right-of-way say the technology would allow the high voltage lines to be installed with little intrusion into their properties and provide a safe situation over the long-term.

But the B.C. Transmission Corporation has already rejected the method, saying it was considered long ago and deemed too expensive.

BCTC looked at three methods to underground the lines on the four- kilometre right-of-way, including trenching and two different kinds of directional drilling, said CEO Jane Peverett.

Peverett said the estimate for horizontal directional drilling was in the neighbourhood of $40 million, well above the cost to trench the lines ($15 million) or string them overhead ($3 million).

Cecil Dunn, who co-chairs Tsawwassen Residents Against Higher Voltage Overhead Lines (TRAHVOL), is frustrated with the numbers thrown around by the provincial Crown corporation.

"That's been standard procedure for them to reject things out of hand whether they did a study on it or not, and then they always throw some wild figure at it," Dunn said.

TRAHVOL has sought and received municipal and school board support for the new solution.

"The vast majority of residents, and we're still polling, but the vast majority support it also," Dunn said.

TRAHVOL hired engineer George Vernon from Mill Creek Management Technology in Seattle to undertake an analysis of the power lines proposal. TRAHVOL spokesperson Bernadette Kudzin pointed out the report concludes HDD is both workable and cost effective.

"Wouldn't you know it, not only, as he puts it, is it a 'piece of cake' to do this, it can be done in a timely manner and it's relatively cost effective. It's not near as expensive as putting it underground in the streets or trenching our backyards."

While BCTC said the cost could be as high as $40 million, Vernon said it was more likely to be $9 million and that's on the high end.

Kudzin noted that if lines were buried deep enough, they would reduce the health risks of electromagnetic fields (EMF) because they would also be encased in metal piping.

TRAHVOL hopes the line could be buried as much as 10 metres, but even at just a few metres underground it would be an improvement over the current plan to install the higher voltage lines overhead where the EMF will be much higher.

Dunn said the HDD proposal caught on fast once the consultant had completed his report.

"This is a win-win situation. It allows them to use the existing right- of-way. It doesn't do anything to destroy our yards, and there's very minimal EMF."

Peverett is unconvinced, saying the method is intrusive and will still mean the 138 kiloVolt line now overhead will stay in place until at least 2018.

"The staging grounds for directional drilling is quite large so that you have a platform that is 30 metres by 30 metres, so it's big equipment. Again, it's only temporary, but it can be disruptive to the neighbourhood, so we did consider all those things," she said.

Dunn said TRAHVOL has given the consultant's report to Delta South MLA Val Roddick, who has passed it on to Premier Gordon Campbell and Energy Minister Richard Neufeld.

"We're hoping, of course, that the government will give some direction to BCTC to say, 'Have a serious look at it and don't give it a fly by night review,'" Dunn said.

(c) The Delta Optimist 2007

APPENDIX C Rising fear of energy crisis this winter http://tinyurl.com/3yt99z 

Electricity shortages and gas supply problems predicted to push bills up

Terry Macalister, Wednesday October 31, 2007, The Guardian

Britain faces the prospect of power shortages and soaring prices this winter after the National Grid warned of a shortfall in electricity-generating capacity yesterday. The alert coincides with a surge in gas prices, which are now 40% higher than in continental Europe, and the confirmation that a vital import plant in South Wales will not be operational this winter.

And it emerged last night that the energy minister, Malcolm Wicks, met power providers and users last week to discuss mounting concerns that the UK was heading into another winter of soaring prices and power shortages, similar to the one that forced some manufacturers to shut down capacity 24 months ago.

The warning by the Grid, which operates the pylons and other parts of the electricity transmission system, came days after it reassured ministers that an earlier alert was nothing to worry about and that there were no expectations of power blackouts this winter.

The fragility of the country's power infrastructure is partly the result of a series of breakdowns at the UK's ageing nuclear reactors. It is an embarrassment to the government, which has often insisted that two years of price peaks and insecurity would end in 2007 as Britain benefited from extra investment in pipelines and import facilities.

But yesterday the Grid carried a "transmission system warning" on its website calling for an extra 300 megawatts of capacity to ensure sufficient slack in the electricity supply system between the peak periods of 1600 GMT and 1930 GMT, when homeowners put the kettle on, turn on the television and make supper.

The company issued a similar warning on October 19 but insisted yesterday that these were precautionary and did not mean there was any immediate risk of a power cut. "This is just a tool to ensure we can deal with the unexpected. It is a normal part of the market working and not a reason for concern," said a spokesman.

Jeremy Nicholson, director of the Major Energy Users Council who attended the talks, said everyone had been caught by surprise by a recent 30% surge in the forward price of electricity and gas. "We are all trying to understand why the supply situation looked fairly good and yet prices have suddenly shot up."

The surge in wholesale prices is likely to encourage suppliers to pass on the burden to domestic users. Mark Todd, a spokesman for energyhelpline.com, which helps customers switch suppliers, says his contacts have told him to expect a 10% rise in gas and electricity bills after Christmas.

Gas is used directly by many of the steel, chemicals and paper manufacturers represented by Mr Nicholson but is also used to generate power to provide electricity. Gas prices are heavily influenced by the value of oil, which this week hit record levels of $93 a barrel, and also by availability.

A liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant being built by BG, formerly part of British Gas, at Milford Haven in South Wales, was expected to be finished this year but yesterday the company said industrial action by contractor staff and other difficulties had pushed back its completion to 2008 with "no definite date yet for opening".

Sources close to the company said there was no chance of the facility being able to bring in shiploads of LNG from Qatar to meet peak demand this winter.

There has also been uncertainty over the amount of gas coming into the market this winter from Norway's Ormen Lange field in the North Sea. The Langeled pipeline linking the field with an import plant at Easington, east Yorkshire, was opened last year and is taking some gas but it is unclear when it will be at full capacity.

Centrica, the owner of British Gas, which has contracted with Norway's StatoilHydro to bring in the supplies, insisted last night that concerns were misfounded. "There is plenty of capacity there," said a spokesman. "When this [Langeled] is fully up and running it will be able to supply 20% of all Britain's gas needs."

APPENDIX D - BASSLINK FOLLY AFFECTS ALL AUSTRALIANS 1 Nov 2007

The Tasmanian State Government has approached the Federal Government to write off a $248million public housing debt at the same time that Hydro Tasmania is requesting $450million from the Tasmanian State Government to prop up its ailing finances. Hydro Tasmania is citing the effects of the drought as the reason for a reduction in profits of $100million for the 2006 2007 year. Hydro Tasmania had pinned its hopes on the Basslink cable to boost its profits with export sales of hydro electricity at peak prices to the mainland. However with dam capacity at an all time low, Hydro Tasmania is instead importing electricity from the mainland and is having difficulty servicing its $92million facility fee for the cable.

Hydro Tasmania has no right at all to blame the weather for its current financial predicament. In its submission to the Joint Assessment Panel, Basslink Concerned Citizens Coalition (BCCC) made the prediction that if Tasmania was in drought it could not expect to service exports to Victoria above Tasmanian demand for electricity. BCCC also predicted that even if the Tasmanian dams were filled to capacity, Basslink would fail to generate sufficient revenue to service the annual facility fee for the cable. But the Panel took no notice.

Keith Borthwick, Chair of BCCC says "We now see the crazy situation where Victorian gas is piped over to Tasmania to be converted into electricity and sent back again through Basslink in a desperate attempt by Hydro to get some return from the cable. It would have made more economic sense if Hydro had built and operated a gas fired power station here in Victoria."

"To partly fund the $450 million rescue package required by Hydro, Premier Lennon is asking the Federal Government to write off a $248 million public housing debt. In other words as well as having Basslink crossing over us in Gippsland we are, as taxpayers, expected to pay for it as well. This is despite assurances at the time that Victorians would not be expected to pay anything for Basslink," continued Mr Borthwick.

Mr Borthwick is calling for a Federal Royal Commission to investigate the establishment of Basslink. "As the financial burden of Basslink is now affecting the entire nation, there should be a Federal Royal Commission into the process by which it was set up. It is too late now to pull Basslink down but we can learn from the mistakes made and ensure that future projects such as pulp mills, desalinisation plants and the like all receive proper objective scrutiny before the commitment is made to proceed with them. Above all, the views of action groups, no matter how small, should be tested and not just swept under the carpet," says Mr Borthwick..

Media Information

Contact: Keith Borthwick, Chair, Basslink Concerned Citizens Coalition

(03) 5148 2292 (bh) (03) 51977364 (ah)

APPENDIX E Multiple grid projects in Ireland

Directive 97/11/EC requires major grid projects to have an assessment (EIA) to cover the cumulative, secondary, direct and indirect effects of the whole project, rather than give a fragmented or piecemeal assessment. There is then the question of defining a project. The Meath- Cavan 400 kV line seems to be an extension of the Cavan-Tyrone Interconnector.

A good case was made (after the event, as a complaint) for treating the Teesside power station (consented 1989) and the consequent 75 km of 400 kV lines (proposed 1991) as one project combining generation and "deep" grid reinforcement. That complaint was rejected by the European Commissioner.

Then in 1994-5, I did succeed in getting the three sections of the Scotland - Northern Ireland interconnector treated as one, thereby bringing the Larne inquiries to a halt for six months. The three sections were respectively in Scotland, under the sea, and in Northern Ireland, and had been the subject of separate applications to different government departments with separate EIAs. That may be a UK precedent for a connected sequence of lines.

The proposed Beauly-Denny (B-D) line in Scotland would also be linked at Beauly to the mooted Ullapool -Beauly line, but the EIA and inquiries have proceeded for Beauly-Denny alone. There is the wider question here of an integrated policy for renewable energy (RE) and grid development, in which the B-D line might be seen as part of a wider "programme", to use the word in the SEA Directive 2001/42/EC. That would be important particularly with regard to "alternatives", which should include UK-wide under-sea cables (which are widely discussed as possibilities in any case). The problem is that B-D is only considered within the powers of the Scottish Executive, which precludes a UK strategic consideration.

It will be interesting to see how the multiple and trans-national Irish projects are assessed, and whether that is challenged.

Mike O'Carroll

© REVOLT

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